GUEST PERSPECTIVE--You can almost feel sorry for Reform and Conservative Jews. After all, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bamboozled them, led them up the garden path and took them for a ride. He once waxed lyrical about how important they are to him, how critical the relationship between Israel and American Jews is, how he has their best interests at heart and so forth and blah blah.
But when push came to shove and Netanyahu was forced to choose between endangering Israel’s strategically important ties to U.S. Jewry and risking his own seat ever so slightly, the great Israeli patriot made his obvious choice. He caved to the extortion of his ultra-Orthodox coalition partners and told American Jews, in the words of the famous 1975 New York Daily News front page about Gerald Ford and a federal bailout of New York City: Drop dead.
Thirty years of demonstrating, protesting and agitating for egalitarian prayers at the Western Wall went down the drain. Years of lobbying, cajoling, persuading, negotiating and agreeing were all for naught. Valiant efforts by Reform and Conservative leaders to assure their flocks that things were moving ahead, that Netanyahu was determined to recognize them as equal human beings deserving of dignity and respect, that in 2017 it’s simply inconceivable that medieval Jewish fundamentalists would continue to dictate terms to the government of the modern state of Israel, all turned out to be nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Bubkes. Nada. Gornisht mit gornisht, nothing with nothing.
Theoretically, things might have turned out differently if Hillary Clinton had been elected president in 2016 instead of Donald Trump. Over the summer, when Netanyahu, like the rest of the world, was convinced that Clinton would win, he intended to try to win back the hearts of liberal American Jews that he had alienated because of his hostility toward Obama.
He would have courted Reform and Conservative Jews as if they were his heart’s desire. But when Trump was elected, Netanyahu realized he doesn’t need liberal Jews any more, at least not for the next four years. And once they became expendable, their fate was sealed.
From dear and neglected allies whose justified grievances must be addressed, Reform Jews turned virtually overnight to lefty zealots who don’t know their place. Even as he was sticking a knife in their backs at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu was already complaining that those damned American Jews had been too active, too nosy, too pushy. If they continue to protest too much, it will only be a matter of time before they’ll be branded as liberals who have forgotten what it means to be Jews, like all the rest of Netanyahu’s rivals.
Netanyahu, after all, has come to identify the well-being of the State of Israel with his own personal fortune. It doesn’t matter if Israel reneges on promises, if it doesn’t keep agreements, if the government shows the world that it is beholden to extreme religious kooks, as long as Netanyahu keeps himself in power just a little bit longer. That’s worth any price in the world. (Read the rest.)
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