U.S. Jewish leader asks Israeli politicians to look abroad

“When Netanyahu comes to America ahead of the election, of course he has to meet with the president,” Malcolm Hoenlein said. “You just have to be smart on how to go around it.”

Malcom Hoenlein (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Malcom Hoenlein
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Candidates in the April 9 election must be cognizant of how their political statements during the campaign will be perceived abroad, world Jewish leader Malcolm Hoenlein said.
In a meeting with Jerusalem Post staff on Monday, Hoenlein, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations executive vice chairman, said he would relay that message in two weeks when he will be leading his umbrella group’s annual mission to Israel, which will be addressed by the leaders of nearly all the major parties running in the election.
“Showing sensitivity is very important,” Hoenlein said. “Politicians do and say things to attract domestic support. But they must realize Israel is exposed more than most countries to coverage. Anything that can be exploited will be. They have to take into account how things are reported not only locally but also abroad.”
Hoenlein was asked about the massive Likud campaign posters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu together with US President Donald Trump in key sites in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv under the slogan “Netanyahu – a different league.” He said it was too soon to say how it would impact American Jews who do not support Trump.
“When Netanyahu comes to America ahead of the election, of course he has to meet with the president,” Hoenlein said. “You just have to be smart on how to go around it.”
Hoenlein noted that Israel Resilience Party leader Benny Gantz has addressed annual meetings of his group in the past and that he met with Labor leader Avi Gabbay the day after he was elected in July 2017.
Asked whether Israeli politicians needed to change their approach to US Jews, he said “American Jewry isn’t their first priority” and defended their efforts.
“There is no government in the world more responsive to a non-resident group than Israel is to us,” he said. “They are always open to listening and responding to our suggestions. Sometimes we need to be educated as well.”
Most of the discussion with the Post was devoted to Hoenlein’s concerns about rising antisemitism in America and the efforts to boycott, divest and sanction Israel. He commended successful efforts to fight BDS on college campuses.
“There is nothing that wakes up a university president more than receiving a letter from a major law firm,” he said.
Hoenlein called the Pittsburgh synagogue mass shooting on October 27 “the end of the age of the innocence of American Jewry, because no one can say they didn’t know anymore.” He said the massacre impacted people in a profound way and continues to resonate.
When asked whether Jews were starting to be afraid of continuing to live in the US, he said it was still too early to tell but anecdotally he did hear such fears in many places in America.
“There is a different feeling today that things are wrong and not going in the right way,” he said. “People feel insecurity for their children.”