US Jewish Leadership and Obama

Leo Rennert
On May 12, the top umbrella group of U.S. Jewish leaders ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal that reprinted an address Yitzhak Rabin delivered in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol 15 years ago -- a few days before his assassination.  Rabin titled it "My Jerusalem."



In his address, which marked passage of legislation to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then-Prime Minister Rabin left no doubt where he stood about Jerusalem as Israel's eternal, united capital.

"We differ in our opinions, left and right," he remarked.  "We disagree about the means and the objective.  In Israel we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as the capital of the State of Israel.   There are not two Jerusalems.  There is only one Jerusalem. For us, Jerusalem is not subject to compromise and there is no peace without Jerusalem.

"Jerusalem, which was destroyed eight times, where for yers we had no access to the remnants of our Temple, was ours, is ours, and will be ours -- forever.  (See full text in attachment).

What is so significant about this ad?

First, its timing.  It follows similar full-page ads by Ron Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, and by Elie Wiesel (like Rabin a Nobel  Peace laureate).  All three ads underscore serious concerns by top U.S. Jewish leaders about President Obama's push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in his first term without sufficient regard for current realities -- Hamas's control of Gaza, Abbas's unwillingness or inability to make real compromises, or to enforce any agreement.  And this concern is reinforced by Obama's push for almost immediate talks about the most intractable final-status issues -- borders, refugees, security and, most important, the fate of Jerusalem. 

Second, the expression of this concern through the words of Yitzhak Rabin.  Because Rabin -- since the assassination -- has been turned into a mythic figure, an Israeli leader who had he lived would have been able to achieve a permanent peace with the Palestinians.  Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat did their part in creating this mythical dovish Rabin -- the Rabin who launched the Oslo process and had the mettle to complete it.  But what Rabin's address at the U.S. Capitol demonstrates is that the real Yitzhak Rabin, the leder of the Labor Party, had his own "red lines" about Israel's security and, first and foremost, about his unwavering intention to keep Jerusalem united.  The ad reminds one and all, including Obama, that Benjamin Netanyahu and Yitzhak Rabin were -- and are -- political twins when it comes to Jerusalem.  Rabin's address echoes Netanyahu's current pronouncements about Jerusalem.  And Rabin was no Likudnik.

Third, the imprimatur of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which belies growing attempts by mainstream media, led by the New York Times, to portray American Jewry as deeply split about Netanyahu's agenda in talks with the Palestinians.  By taking and publicizing a firm stand on keeping Jerusalem united, the Conference ad belies such assertions.  The Conference has a roster of 52 member organizations, spanning the ideological and religious gamut of U.S. Jewry.  It includes Sephardic, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jewish groups.  Also, Americans for Peace Now on the left and American Friends of Likud on the right.  Plus AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith, Hadassah, Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish War Veterans, the Zionist Organization of America, etc.

Some Conference constituents may not be thrilled with the ad.  But when the Conference takes out full-page ads in three of America's most inflouential newspapers, its leadership knows that, while it represents a diverse range of Jewish groups, when it comes to Jerusalem, there is vast agreement among American Jews, a very wide consensus against re-dividing the capital of the Jewish state.

In other words, exactly how Rabin put it 15 years ago.
On May 12, the top umbrella group of U.S. Jewish leaders ran a full-page ad in the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal that reprinted an address Yitzhak Rabin delivered in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol 15 years ago -- a few days before his assassination.  Rabin titled it "My Jerusalem."



In his address, which marked passage of legislation to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, then-Prime Minister Rabin left no doubt where he stood about Jerusalem as Israel's eternal, united capital.

"We differ in our opinions, left and right," he remarked.  "We disagree about the means and the objective.  In Israel we all agree on one issue: the wholeness of Jerusalem, the continuation of its existence as the capital of the State of Israel.   There are not two Jerusalems.  There is only one Jerusalem. For us, Jerusalem is not subject to compromise and there is no peace without Jerusalem.

"Jerusalem, which was destroyed eight times, where for yers we had no access to the remnants of our Temple, was ours, is ours, and will be ours -- forever.  (See full text in attachment).

What is so significant about this ad?

First, its timing.  It follows similar full-page ads by Ron Lauder, head of the World Jewish Congress, and by Elie Wiesel (like Rabin a Nobel  Peace laureate).  All three ads underscore serious concerns by top U.S. Jewish leaders about President Obama's push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement in his first term without sufficient regard for current realities -- Hamas's control of Gaza, Abbas's unwillingness or inability to make real compromises, or to enforce any agreement.  And this concern is reinforced by Obama's push for almost immediate talks about the most intractable final-status issues -- borders, refugees, security and, most important, the fate of Jerusalem. 

Second, the expression of this concern through the words of Yitzhak Rabin.  Because Rabin -- since the assassination -- has been turned into a mythic figure, an Israeli leader who had he lived would have been able to achieve a permanent peace with the Palestinians.  Bill Clinton and Yasser Arafat did their part in creating this mythical dovish Rabin -- the Rabin who launched the Oslo process and had the mettle to complete it.  But what Rabin's address at the U.S. Capitol demonstrates is that the real Yitzhak Rabin, the leder of the Labor Party, had his own "red lines" about Israel's security and, first and foremost, about his unwavering intention to keep Jerusalem united.  The ad reminds one and all, including Obama, that Benjamin Netanyahu and Yitzhak Rabin were -- and are -- political twins when it comes to Jerusalem.  Rabin's address echoes Netanyahu's current pronouncements about Jerusalem.  And Rabin was no Likudnik.

Third, the imprimatur of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which belies growing attempts by mainstream media, led by the New York Times, to portray American Jewry as deeply split about Netanyahu's agenda in talks with the Palestinians.  By taking and publicizing a firm stand on keeping Jerusalem united, the Conference ad belies such assertions.  The Conference has a roster of 52 member organizations, spanning the ideological and religious gamut of U.S. Jewry.  It includes Sephardic, Reform, Conservative and Orthodox Jewish groups.  Also, Americans for Peace Now on the left and American Friends of Likud on the right.  Plus AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith, Hadassah, Jewish Federations of North America, Jewish War Veterans, the Zionist Organization of America, etc.

Some Conference constituents may not be thrilled with the ad.  But when the Conference takes out full-page ads in three of America's most inflouential newspapers, its leadership knows that, while it represents a diverse range of Jewish groups, when it comes to Jerusalem, there is vast agreement among American Jews, a very wide consensus against re-dividing the capital of the Jewish state.

In other words, exactly how Rabin put it 15 years ago.