US President Barack Obama. .
(photo credit: REUTERS)
No matter how hard US President Barack Obama tries to win the hearts and minds of many of the oldest, wealthiest most powerful American Jews with his pro-Israel behavior, he must acknowledge that he is fighting a losing battle. Now more than ever, it is clear that J Street is his political and ideological home and he and Michelle should come join us at the J Street National Conference next month.
He has long shared J Street’s mission of working to secure Israel’s standing as a safe and secure Jewish democratic state.
He has spent enormous financial, military and political capital in support of that mission and he shares the belief of a growing number of Israeli and American Jews that the realization of a two-state divorce with the Palestinians and the end of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank are essential to Israel’s survival as a Jewish democratic state that can live in peace with its neighbors.
Millions of dollars have been spent by some in the Jewish community to smear him personally and to disparage and slander several of his top aides. Some, acting out of a stated love for Israel, spent more than a million dollars on a campaign to smear Chuck Hagel as an anti-Semite after Obama nominated him to be his secretary of defense, and a similar campaign was initiated against Samantha Power before the knee-jerk detractors realized that Power had a long history of expressing love and support for Israel.
When he last appeared at the AIPAC conference, the leaders of the organization felt the need to beg attendees to treat all speakers with respect (not to boo or scream out abusive comments) when they spoke. I can guarantee you that when President Obama comes home to J Street no such instructions will be necessary. He will be warmly received and welcomed home where he belongs with the kind of reception and warm appreciation that at AIPAC tends to be reserved for speakers like the Rev. John Hagee or Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Because he deserves to be treated with gratitude and respect for all he has done for our country and for Israel.
Before I got involved with J Street I held a leadership position on our local AIPAC board in Tucson, Arizona, and have attended AIPAC conferences in the past. They have done amazing and important work for Israel and the US over the years, and still do. But J Street is really now Obama’s home in the pro-Israel Jewish community – just as it has become my home.
In recent weeks as the Israeli prime minister and his ambassador to the US Ron Dermer have secretly conspired with Speaker of the House John Boehner to undermine the foreign policy of our country. J Street is the organization that has spoken out most loudly to condemn behavior that jeopardizes the unique bipartisan support for Israel that has existed in Washington.
Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani has hatefully and personally attacked the president and questioned his character and patriotism in exactly the same way J Street detractors have engaged in slanderous attacks against J Street leaders in articles, speeches and movies in recent years.
The goals and tactics of the haters are the same. They raise money to spread lies and distortions and use personal attacks in an effort to demonize and destroy those with whom they disagree.
Obama and J Street have common values, common enemies and a common goal of Tikkun Olam – leaving the world a better place than it was when we got here.
He needs to come home and show that, despite what his political advisors might be telling him, J Street is his pro-Israel and pro-America home, and where he belongs.
In addition, J Street has also mounted a campaign refuting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s outrageous claim that he speaks for the Jews of the world. In fact, President Obama has more of a right to make that claim, since more than twice as many American Jews voted for and strongly support him as there are Israeli Jews who have voted for and supported Netanyahu’s party. But, of course, he has shown the restraint, diplomacy and common sense that is displayed by all effective world leaders and refrained from making such an arrogant and phony assertion.
It would be both a pleasure and an honor to welcome President Obama to the J Street conference. And it would give the thousands of pro-Israel Jews there a chance to express their appreciation for all he has done and his commitment to helping Israel and the United States become safer, better, more moral places to live based on the Jewish and American democratic values that we all share.The author is managing director of wealth management for an international investment firm. He has studied, written and lectured about Jewish wisdom and ethics in the US and Israel. He lives in Aspen and Tucson and has held leadership positions in Federations, Israel Bonds, AIPAC, CLAL and J Street.