US Jews want to see progress, regardless of who's PM

Leaders of Jewish groups frustrated with possibility next coalition will be too weak to move toward peace.

bibi livni 248ap (photo credit: AP)
bibi livni 248ap
(photo credit: AP)
Leaders of American Jewish organizations on Wednesday pledged to work with whoever winds up leading a new Israeli government - but expressed frustration with the near certainty that the next coalition will be weak and one that could hinder progress toward peace. "The chances of a fragile coalition loom," said David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee. He added that it was "not the best outcome." "This is another reminder of the long-overdue need for more electoral reform in order to create more inherent stability in the system," he told The Jerusalem Post. Most groups declined to specify which party they would prefer to see heading the government, citing their nonprofit status. "I don't think there are secret conference calls about how we want it to turn out, but like the rest of the world we're waiting to see what happens," said one official. "Relations will be warmer or cooler depending on whether there's a feeling on the ground that whatever government is established is trying to reach an agreement with the Palestinians or one where there's a feeling of retrenchment," the official added. One organization that didn't wait was the New York-based Anti-Defamation League, which sent out a statement Tuesday congratulating Tzipi Livni on Kadima's plurality in Knesset. The group said Wednesday that the congratulation was not intended as an endorsement of her for the prime minister's office. "We traditionally congratulate the winner," said spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum. "Did we get out of the box too early? I don't know - she still has more votes than anyone else." The hawkish Zionist Organization of America said it would welcome Binyamin Netanyahu back as prime minister, "with all of his flaws." "Netanyahu speaks more towards our policy positions than Livni," said president Morton Klein. Klein was among several who expressed concern about the rise of Avigdor Lieberman, warning that "his image is so tarnished, it wouldn't be good for Israel" to have him in a prominent leadership position. The dovish group J Street said explicitly in a statement that they would call on American Jews and organizations to "not remain silent if the prejudice and intolerance promoted by his party actually become part of the incoming Israeli government's policies and philosophy." J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami warned that the specter of paralysis in the Knesset raised the dual possibility that the US government would take a more forceful role in propelling peace negotiations forward, while American Jews, distracted by the growing US recession, might turn their attention to pressing issues in the domestic Jewish community. "In the medium to long term it is a real risk for Israel that American Jews will lose patience," Ben-Ami told the Post. "The status quo of the whole situation is unsustainable," he said. "A unity government with two parties with polar opposite philosophies is not a recipe for quick action."