US Jewish groups split over pledge for unity on Israel

Pledge, which says "US-Israel friendship should never be used as political wedge issue," comes just before one-year countdown to elections.

AIPAC_521 (photo credit: JASON EED / REUTERS)
(photo credit: JASON EED / REUTERS)
NEW YORK – A National Pledge for Unity on Israel issued jointly on Monday by the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee has created a backlash, with some Jewish organizations refusing to sign it.
The pledge, meant “to encourage other national organizations, elected officials, religious leaders, community groups and individuals to rally around bipartisan support for Israel while preventing the Jewish state from becoming a wedge issue in the upcoming campaign season,” notes that Israel often comes up as a vote-splitter of an issue.
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“The Jewish community has had a strong interest in ensuring that American support for Israel is one of the critical strategic issues that unites rather than divides parties and officials,” the pledge reads. “US-Israel friendship should never be used as a political wedge issue.”
The pledge comes just before the beginning of the one-year countdown to the 2012 presidential election. Both the Emergency Committee for Israel and the Republican Jewish Committee have issued statements saying they refuse to sign the pledge.
“This effort to stifle debate on US policy toward Israel” contravenes American traditions of open and vigorous debate, said Republican Jewish Committee Executive Director Matt Brooks. The Republican Jewish Committee “will not be silenced on this or any issue,” he said.
Emergency Committee for Israel chairman William Kristol issued a statement saying “Here’s the Emergency Committee for Israel’s answer to Directors Abe Foxman and David Harris: You must be kidding.
“Indeed, this attempt to silence those of us who have ‘questioned the current administration’s foreign policy approach vis-a-vis Israel’ will re-energize us,” Kristol continued. “Nor, incidentally, should those who support the administration’s approach to Israel be bashful about making their case. Directors Harris and Foxman need a refresher course on the virtues of free speech and robust debate in a democracy. Their effort to stifle discussion and debate is unworthy of the best traditions of America, and of Israel.”
“Harris and Foxman have vigorously criticized Obama on Israel many times in the past, making them violators of their own pledge,” Emergency Committee for Israel spokesman Noah Pollak said in an e-mail. “And where was Foxman & Harris’s desire for ‘unity’ in previous moments, such as when J Street was attacking mainstream pro- Israel groups or when liberal groups were attacking the Bush administration on the issue?”
Marc Tracy of Tablet Magazine surmised in a piece Tuesday that the ADL-AJC pledge “could reflect a genuine backlash at the recent hyper-politicization of the Israel issue at the hands of groups like ECI that surrounded events such as the UN General Assembly and the special election in New York.”
During the UN General Assembly session in September, the Emergency Committee for Israel put billboards around New York accusing US President Barack Obama of being insufficiently supportive of Israel in dealings with the Palestinians.
Additionally, Israel became a key issue in the recent special congressional election in New York’s 9th district, formerly represented by disgraced Rep. Anthony Weiner. Bob Turner was elected as the first Republican congressman from the district since 1920. Many said it was due to the election being framed as a referendum on Obama’s Israel policies.