Binyamin Netanyahu has shown a marked preference for American Jews. Many of them have, over the years, worked for him. He even appointed some to high office: Stanley Fischer as Director of the Bank of Israel, Michael Oren as ambassador to the US. It is possible there were not worthy of either office, but I doubt it.
Of the two, Oren’s case is more problematic. He has given up his American citizenship in order to serve as ambassador – an act which he publicly noted caused him much grief – but the situation where an ambassador serves in a country whose citizenship he held but recently is unusual. One suspects when Oren will serve his term, he will attempt to get his American citizenship back.
One might have assumed that given the circumstance, which is to say him being a walking, breathing example of dual loyalty, Oren would be particularly careful in his relations with American Jews. That, unfortunately, is not the case: Oren has delivered a brutal – according to the Forward, also unprecedented – attack on the young, liberal lobby, J-Street. According to Oren, J-Street “not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments”, and he also blamed it of putting Israel’s existence at risk, no less.
Oren’s attack on J-Street was in line with the attitude of the current foreign ministry: the Deputy Minister, Danny Ayalon, has – among his other shenanigans – refused to meet with Democrat congressmen who visited Israel, because they were accompanied by J-Street representatives. However, what Oren told the Jewish Federations General Assembly earlier this week, however, was much more troubling.
Oren said he expects the American Jews to fight the Goldstone report “with the same zeal that you have fought boycotts, divestment and sanctions”. He also expects the American Jews who “respect” the decisions of the Israeli government, even though they may disagree with them, and that they “make Israel a priority and to ensure that Israel’s sovereignty remains a bipartisan goal”.
In short, Oren expects all American Jews, or at least their leadership, to embrace the same choices he himself has made, and turn themselves into a political bloc, a weapon to be wielded by the Israeli government, be it right or wrong; a bloc which will use its influence in the US to promote the interests of a foreign country, whose government made a habit of throwing a monkey wrench into the Middle East plans of US presidents. He also expects – that was the bit about bipartisanship – that Jews will use their great influence in the Democrat party to thwart attempts by Democrat administrations to force Israel to move towards a settlement. Oren is not worried about the Republicans.
Such a call by an ambassador to a group of citizens, demanding they will first and foremost show their loyalty to his country is, to say the least, very problematic, and to be less polite, unadulterated chutzpah.
How would Israel react, were the Russian ambassador turn to Israeli citizens who once held Russian citizenship, and demand of them loyalty to Russia, asking to make sure that protecting Russian interests was accepted across the board of all parties? How would Israel react if such an ambassador was a former Israeli? How would it react, were the British ambassador to tell its Anglican citizens he expects them to promote the interests of Her Majesty’s government, and to make the issue their top priority? I think it is a safe bet the British ambassador would be flying home within the day, and that the Russian ambassador would have a conversation with an angry Liberman, if only for appearance’s sake. Liberman, after all, promotes rather similar positions.
Oren seems to think Israel is allowed more than other countries. Fortunately, most American Jews don’t think like Oren or Netanyahu (which Oren admits implicitly, when he asks the audience to respect decisions they don’t agree with), and most of them have more important issues to deal with than Israel. Their leadership, however, may be another matter. If the American public would start to think – regardless of the facts – that American Jews are as loyal to the US as Oren is, then Zionism will add another Jewish community to the list of those it already shafted. If all this will happen on the background of an Israeli attack on Iran – the Obama administration basically said this week Netanyahu should count it out – then great fun would be had by all.