Who will be for us?

Why should Israel need to defend itself from people who claim to want peace?

By ED KOCH
December 10, 2011 23:39
US President Obama with PA President Abbas

US President Obama with PA President Abbas 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

 
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Americans for Peace Now is currently involved in a fundraising campaign. Surprisingly, that organization’s latest pitch is devoted to assailing me for having said that, over the last few years, US President Barack Obama has, in various ways, thrown Israel under the bus. 

A prime example of this was when Obama invited Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to the White House and then proceeded to insult him.   Obama banned the usual picture-taking protocol and then left to have dinner with his family without inviting Netanyahu, making clear his hostility to both the Prime Minister and Israel.

Obama has visited Egypt but, as President, has never visited Israel. He has publicly demanded that Israel accept the pre-1967 boundaries, subject to agreed upon land swaps, and cease all building in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, even in Jewish neighborhoods. He has not publicly demanded concessions from the Palestinian Authority, for example, that it stop its incitement against Israel and the Jewish people.

From the point of view of supporters of Israel, of which I am one, Obama was clearly conveying that, from his point of view, the culprit in preventing peace negotiations from proceeding between Israel and the Palestinian Authority was Israel. You might recall the orchestrated attacks upon Israel by US Vice President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Apparently, the Obama administration thought it could bully and intimidate Israel into taking actions that Israel believes are dangerous to its survival.

In September’s US congressional special elections, there were only two contests, one in New York City (the 9th Congressional District, previously held by disgraced former representative Anthony Weiner) and another in Nevada.

I announced that the 9th Congressional District race was an opportunity for the supporters of Israel in the US to send the president a message that Jewish-Americans, who in 2008 had given then-presidential candidate Obama 78 percent of their entire vote (the highest number of any group other than African-Americans), were not to be taken for granted. The 9th District in Brooklyn-Queens had the largest Jewish constituency of any congressional district and had sent a Democrat to Congress for close to 90 years. The Jewish constituency of the 9th District was about 30 percent.

The Republican candidate, Bob Turner, a Catholic and a strong supporter of Israel, was critical of Obama on a range of issues, especially the president’s handling of Israel. All election outcomes revolve primarily around the candidate, but I think it fair to say that my support for Bob Turner, who won an extraordinary 8 percent margin of victory in the solidly Democratic district, had a positive impact. The New York Times, in an article discussing Mr. Turner’s extraordinary win, commented on my role by quoting political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, as saying in referring to me and my role, “A guy who’s been out of office 22 years and is 86 years old – it’s amazing.”



As a result of Turner’s election, the president asked to see me in New York City and, of course, I was delighted to accept the invitation. Without revealing too much of the conversation, I will only say I complimented him on his speech at the UN in support of Israel that very morning. He asked for my support. I always hope to support Democrats, but have crossed party lines on a number of occasions, including supporting President George W. Bush in 2004 for reelection.

In response to the President’s request for my support, I said I would support him, based, in effect, on his change in recognizing the importance of Israel as an ally. I told the President, while I disagreed with him on his call for Israel’s acceptance of the 1967 lines, I would not have denounced that position if he had at the same time demanded that Hamas–now an equal partner with Fatah in the Palestinian Authority–accept the demand of the Quartet, give up the use of violence, accept the legitimacy of the State of Israel and recognize all prior agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

I do not believe Israel should be asked to negotiate with Hamas until it does exactly that. Hamas believes Tel Aviv is part of an Arab state, that there cannot be two states in the area and that the Jews who entered Palestine after 1917 must be expelled. That is in their basic charter. My question to Americans for Peace Now is when and where, in cited language, have you criticized Hamas? Have you ever blamed Hamas for their refusal to give up their charter demands upon Israel - in effect, to disappear? Have you ever demanded that the Palestinian Authority cease inciting its population against Israel and Jews, as it regularly does in its speeches, newspapers, school textbooks and other propaganda? 

Has Americans for Peace Now ever publicly noted that Netanyahu has said that he will negotiate with PA President Mahmoud Abbas at any time, without preconditions, and that it is Abbas who continues to impose preconditions and to take unilateral actions, such as seeking UN recognition of Palestinian statehood, without negotiating peace with Israel? 

The major supporters and leaders of Americans for Peace Now are Jewish. And, for me, it’s always been a mystery why a significant sector of Jews finds it so difficult to stand up and defend Israel from unfair attacks.  They forget Rabbi Hillel’s statement of 2000 years ago, “If I am not for myself, then who will be for me?”


I remain a proud Jew. I have fought the good fight for many causes, and I will not turn away from fighting the good fight for Israel. Like America, Israel is a sanctuary. It is the only Jewish state in the world and it deserves to be protected from the many who seek to destroy it.

The Syrian army has shown us what atrocities it is capable of against its own people. Imagine a defenseless Israel with Syrian troops in Tel Aviv and what they would be doing to the Jews, were they given the opportunity.

I am for a two-state solution. Regrettably, I believe the Palestinian leaders are not; otherwise, they would now be sitting at a peace table instead of boycotting the peace talks. Americans for Peace Now apparently does not understand this.

The writer is a former New York City mayor.

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