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March 31, 2015 11:14 am

Jewish Leaders Are Turning Against Obama on Israel

avatar by Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn

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ADL National Director Abraham Foxman. Photo: Justin Hoch.

Abraham Foxman. Photo: Justin Hoch.

American Jewish leaders who supported the Oslo Accords or have criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are now strongly challenging the Obama Administration’s policy toward Israel. It’s the latest sign of a growing consensus in the Jewish community that the President’s vindictive approach toward Israel is unfair and overreaching.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, head of the Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue and the Ramaz Day School in Manhattan, was an early supporter of the left-leaning Israeli party Meimad, and its American equivalent, Shvil Hazahav, which supported the Oslo Accords.

But last week, in an email to his Upper East Side congregants, Lookstein criticized President Obama’s plan for “reassessing the Israel/United States relationship.” Rabbi Lookstein then strongly endorsed an article by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, who wrote that “there is zero chance” that a peaceful Palestinian state could be established “now or even soon.” Krauthammer derided “the crushing disappointment of the Obama administration and its media poodles at the spectacular success of the foreign leader they loathe more than any other on the planet. The consequent seething and sputtering are understandable, if unseemly. Blaming Netanyahu for banishing peace, however, is mindless.”

Rabbi Lookstein wrote that the Krauthammer column “presents with utmost clarity an assessment of the reassessment. It deserves the attention of all of us.”

Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, was outspoken in his criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s plan to address Congress. But this week, Foxman said he was “even more troubled” by the “statements now coming out of the White House calling for a reassessment of policy toward Israel.” While disagreeing with some of the prime minister’s statements and actions, Foxman emphasized that “none of this, however, justifies what we are hearing from the Obama Administration. Their reactions raise deeper questions about their intentions and perspectives.”

In a similar turnabout, American Jewish Committee leader David Harris, who has often criticized the policies of the Netanyahu government, told the Jerusalem Post that “The fact that the outcome of a Democratic election in Israel seems to be of great concern” to the Obama Administration “is cause for deep anxiety and puzzlement.”

“Whatever the failings of the prime minister, the way this is unfolding runs completely contrary to the spirit of U.S.-Israel relations,” Harris added. “The U.S. appears to have a reasoned interest in prolonging the crisis.”

New York Jewish Week editor Gary Rosenblatt, who is certainly no hawk on Israel, wrote in his post-election editorial that while Prime Minister Netanyahu “has much to be accountable for” in the current state of U.S.-Israel relations, “President Obama is to blame as well.” In a pointed jab at the Obama Administration, Rosenblatt expressed concern that “Jerusalem will come under increasing U.S. and international pressure…while the Palestinian Authority, which has consistently rejected every Israeli offer of compromise for decades, gets a free pass.” Rosenblatt concluded that in assessing the choice that Israel’s voters made, “we have to appreciate and respect the decision of those who put their lives on the line. That’s democracy.”

Some mainstream Jewish leaders are even invoking memories of pre-World War II appeasement. In an email discussion group on March 2, Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, a staunch Democrat and former chairman of the United States Holocaust Museum, wrote that the Obama Administration’s deal with Iran “appeases Iran and enables it to arrive at nuclear breakout status. This is a disaster for the Middle East and an existential threat to Israel’s existence.”

Greenberg added: “Imagine if the U.S. Congress or the British Parliament had allowed Eduard Benes of Czechoslovakia to speak out against adopting the Munich pact.”

Rabbi Greenberg, who in the past has expressed support for extensive Israeli territorial concessions, wrote that “a lot of the damage” to U.S.-Israel relations is the result of the fact “that the Administration has chosen to blow this up.They have spoken more harshly and delegitimatingly of Netanyahu and Israel than of Iran, a government which is tyrannical, persecutes religious minorities and gays, underwrites terror, crushes and jails opposition and whose two top leaders openly called for destruction of Israel… The President is showing extremely bad and naive judgement.”

Perhaps the strongest words have come from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, a former American rabbinical superstar who is now chief rabbi of the Israeli city of Efrat. Over the years, Riskin has on various occasions expressed support for Israeli territorial withdrawals.

In remarks at the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem last week, Rabbi Riskin said: “The President of the United States is lashing out at Israel just like Haman lashed out at the Jews.” He compared Prime Minister Netanyahu to the biblical figure Mordechai, who strove to rescue the Jews of Persia from destruction at the wicked Haman’s hand. When a member of the audience accused Rabbi Riskin of being “disrespectful” to President Obama, he replied: “I am being disrespectful because the President of the United States was disrespectful to my prime minister, to my country, to my future and to the future of the world.” He said he was proud of Prime Minister Netanyahu for addressing Congress, “even if it angered Obama.”

The Obama Administration’s policy toward Israel has always been anchored in the ability of the president and his advisers to persuade mainstream Jewish leaders that he is genuinely concerned about Israel’s security. This helped ensure Jewish votes for Obama, and a willingness of most Jewish leaders to go along with the Administration’s policies – or at least not protest those policies too vigorously.

But the latest statements by both rabbinical and secular Jewish leaders, all of them doves or dovish-leaning centrists, are evidence of a sea change in Jewish opinion. President Obama has gone too far this time, as the growing chorus of protests from the Jewish leadership shows.

Moshe Phillips is president and Benyamin Korn is chairman of the Religious Zionists of Philadelphia, and both are candidates on the Religious Zionist slate ( in the World Zionist Congress elections.

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  • Terry Gosden

    It’s with sadness I read the comments, connecting today’s events with the holocaust, well let’s be fair many countries lost millions fighting the 2nd World war, we remember our dead, and wounded physically and mentally. But have not used it as an industry. The Russians who went through a much bigger Holocaust, did not follow your footsteps. But kept the dignity, and self respect. Enough, Iran has not started a war in over 0200 years, and whilst not perfect, does not have members of it’s Parliment ( which included, Judaic people) calling for genocide. One person makes one remark, and you want to bomb the whole country, should not Zionism be treated the same?. No of course not, but level e playing field. Israel has Nuclear weapons. And has refused to sign up to non prolification treatise. Iran does not have the Bomb, and has signed up. The World is watching America, and waiting to see how it reacts to the continuing Genocide of the Palestinian people. I always believed that Judaic people had humanity as a core of their beliefs, as did many others. But that belief is being tested now as never before.

  • David Buki

    Too little too late. After what Jews experienced there is no room for “mistakes”. There were enough signals to indicate where Obama’s sympathies lay. There were many unknowns regarding his leaning towards the Muslim Brotherhood. The Jews were blind and deaf to these indicators. It is funny to see some Jews still thinking that Obama is just “mistaken”. The truth did not sink in for them yet.
    My fellow Jews, Obama does not need us anymore. At least you got in return for abandoning Israel free contraceptives.
    Not the first time Liberal Jews were blinded by a president. Please read: While Six Million Died: A Chronicle of American Apathy

    • Mario Lozano

      Why read six million dead when this didn’t happen in this country, what you should read is Over 400 years of slavery or Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee, Trails of Tears or Sand Creek Massacre but because these people didn’t infutrate the United States Congress, only the holocaust gets the pity party attention. There are more U.S. citizen in favor of lifting sanctions for the Iranian people then Iseral trying to Dictate what’s good for our country.

  • Job

    “This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. We regard the agreement signed last night… as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again… I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.”” – The British Prime Minister declaration, September 30, 1938.
    Leaving Iran in this Admn’s hands is bad for America. Like Chamberlain, no conditions on Iran to stop boasting of Israel’s destruction – how cute is that 🙂

  • Ivan Gur-Arie

    The Jewish leaders are very concerned about image. Imagine a Jew defending a JEw. They have to show how fair minded and understanding they are. That was the trouble with many Jewish leaders back in the 1930’s. Now they are beginning to realize that a snake resides int he White House. HE is full of venom and anger. His childishness and and narcissism prevent him from making intelligent decisions. All we hear from him is “Wha! he broke my toy> Wha wha wha. He is beneath contempt.

  • avraham rave (haifa)

    What I wrote in tire contact to the White House : Mister president how would behave if congressman in your country used to claim that the terrorists from September 11 are not terrorists at all ?! Then will know you that Arab israeli member of the KNESSET claim so with regard to murderers of children . How you in particular and the nation the American in general would react if a Member of the Senate used to commend and poetical minister of eulogy to the terrorists from September 11 ?! Then will you know that this what did an Arab Israeli Member of the KNESSET .so Don’t will worry Mister president to the democracy in Israel ! But I have additional question to you Mister president : Is this the appropriate legacy that you request to leave? Heritage of hostility Israel ?! The most important ally and the most loyal that shares with America its values ?…..!Haneen Zoabi: Kidnappers(That murdered the youths) are not terrorists …..Ahmed Tibi Praises Terrorists

  • Mickey Oberman

    Those so called “Jewish Leaders” are not leaders.

    Obama’s life history, his friends, supporters, religious affiliates and backers, was well known long before his first election.
    Yet they voted for him not just once but twice.
    They should be pilloried and replaced forthwith.

  • howard brown

    but does Obama care?

    • harry rogers

      Not one bit.

  • Perhaps there will be a revival of Jabotinsky-type Revisionist Zionism by Jews who have stood by the Democratic Party, though it seems far-fetched. See For the WASP liberal establishment has not followed the lead of Ben Hecht or other Revisionists.

  • Judy Silver-Shapiro

    The fear of a NUCLEAR iran?
    This sitting US Pres is, was, and always will be an ISRAEL-JEWISH basher.
    How any so-called JEWISH ‘leader’ or Rabbi could ever affirm HERR obama is unbelievable.
    Since ‘Day 1’ he has been very clear about his muslim allegiances.
    He has publicly DEMONIZED, ISOLATED and SCAPEGOATED the JEWISH Homeland AD NAUSEAM, more then any US Pres in history.
    WAKE UP!

    • Brad cole

      I agree. How can any Jewish person support this guy when he has consistently turned his back on Israel?

      • Mario Lozano

        The jews in this country need to stop preaching “but is it good for the Jews” that means they only care for themselves. Our president see how they dictate to congress on their policies and don’t give a crap about anyone else. At lease this president is extending his hand out for peace with other countries.

  • What’s so striking is the contrast between Obama’s determination to be friends with Iran, the people who shout ‘Death to America’ and bankroll terror across the Middle East, and Obama’s overt hostility to Israel because Bibi saw through the proposed Iran nuke deal. There cannot be a peace treaty with the PA as long as Hamas’s charter calls for the annihilation of Israel and the murder of all Jews worldwide. If the IDF pulled out of the West Bank, ISIL would eat the PA state for breakfast, and leave the crumbs for Hamas. The entire Middle East is suffering fron Iranian backed terrorists. Handing over Gaza to Hamas could lead to an Iranian Riviere on the Gaza Strip. Congress sees the reality, and one hopes Obama and co. also see it.

  • Why did these Jewish leaders object to Netanyahu’s speech to congress in the first place didn’t they want to hear from before making any decision

  • Juan Vega

    The American Jewish support for the Democratic Party as the party of social progress must be reassessed since the Democratic Party has been hijacked by the extreme left that is openly pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel. The traditional Democratic Party is democratic only in name. Jews must come to grips with it. We Catholics that support Israreli and Jewish causes have realized that even the Catholic Churh with the traditional support of the Democratic Party

    • Juan Vega

      (cont…) the Catholic Church has found itself challenged and chastise for its core beliefs such as traditional marriage and a stand against socialism.

  • agree 1000%. Life long liberal
    Democratic voter and voted for Obama twice. But Im fed up with him and the Democrat party over anti Israel anti Netanyahu rhetoric. And Iran nuke deal. And his pro Muslim BS. These issues will drive me to vote for and contribute to Repubs for first time ever

    • Jeff Kane

      I have the same record of support for Obama and have been turned 180 degrees in the last 2 years by his treatment of Netanyahu and criticism of Israel. I also don’t want to be in the same political party that embraces so-called Jews like Peter Beinart who have convinced themselves that the antisemites will make exceptions for them if they betray Israel. I’m not sure I can ever become a Republican, but I will certainly support many of their positions and be much more likely to vote for their candidates.

      • Mr. Stephen L Tecot

        What’s your problem with becoming a Republican? It sounds to me like your brainwashing by the Left is so thorough that your mind is still closed. How any intelligent(?) Jew could have voted for BHO the first time, let alone the second time is beyond my comprehension.

    • Brad cole

      I hate to say it, but what took you guys (the Jewish people) so long? Are you that brainwashed by the democrats that it took Obama giving Israel’s mortal enemy the bomb for you to realize that you don’t all have to automatically vote democratic? I just don’t get it.

  • It is high time to Impeach Obama, today is not soon enough.

  • Aliza

    This is a good beginning.

    I hope more Jewish leaders will make statements against J Street.

    And I would like to see a boycott of the Jerusalem Post Conference which will be featuring J Street.

  • At last! It was about time!

  • Bolond

    get rid of the mufti in the white house …mobama , The worst thing to happen to the world and usa !!!!!.

  • The false claim that Jewish settlers dispossessed Arab people from their land in Palestine. The examination of records from 1820 onward will shock most people.

    In the first place, Palestine’s population barely grew for 260 years — rising from 200,000 Muslims, Christians and Jews in 1555 to only 270,000 in 1810. In the second, records from 1832, 1865, 1879 and 1893 and 1918, among others, demonstrate that when the heaviest Jewish immigration began in 1870, a large proportion of the 420,000 to 430,000 Arabs in Palestine were themselves recent immigrants.

    Documents the origins of those immigrants demonstrate. Many Arabs that came from Egypt… In 1830 alone, 6,010 Egyptian Arabs settled in Akko…

    Additionally, Arab and Muslim immigrants also came from Algeria, Damascus, Yemen, Afghanistan, Persia, India, Tripoli, Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq…etc.

    Numerous historical descriptions of a desolate landscape, composed almost entirely of swamps and deserts, and sold to the Jewish people by absentee Arab landlords, appointed by the Ottoman government, at enormous profits. Dozens of sales are documented specifically, including some by the Egyptian el-Husseini family of Yasser Arafat.
    The Hajj Amin el-Husseini, the intractable opponent of Zionism, a Jew-hater on par with Hitler, admitted under questioning that no Arab land was stolen; no Arabs were wiped out, no villages destroyed. Rather, the Jews bought hundreds of thousands of dunam (about ¼ of an acre) of land from willing sellers, often from absentee Arab landowners. Moreover, thanks in part to the Zionists and the British, the quality of life for Palestine’s Arab peasantry was vastly improved, with less taxation, more schools, and an increase in Arab population.
    The next time someone spouts the Arab line about how Zionists came and stole Arab land and drove Arabs out, just quote the Mufti.

    A substantial amount of land was leased from the Ottoman Empire by the Arabs as sharecroppers, they never owned the land.

    This documentation shatters the current Arab claim of dispossession.

    YJ Draiman

    P.S. The world at large must compare how Israel uplifted and resettled the dispossessed Million JEWISH REFUGEES FROM ARAB COUNTRIES and their children (who lived in those Arab countries for over 2,000 years) many Jews died from hardship and starvation during the expulsion. The Arab countries confiscated their assets, businesses, homes and Real Estate totaling 120,000 sq. km. – 46,000 sq. miles which is more than 5-6 times the size of Israel valued in the trillions of dollars with 68 years of Arab manipulation of a much lower number of Arab refugees. Mahmoud Abbas’ stance on refugees makes a mockery of a two state solution, which will never happen. It denies the rights of the million Jewish refugees from the Arab countries. It sidesteps Arab culpability for starting the wars that led to BOTH refugee issues. And it runs counter to the way every other population exchange has been resolved. They have to consider relocating to Jordan and or to the homes and lands the Arabs confiscated from the expelled Jewish people. The Arabs have 21 States where they must resettle the Arab refugees , Israel has only one small one.
    YJ Draiman.

    • Michael Perloff

      Brilliant comment. Source of your information?

    • Mario L

      The hardline pro-Palestine argument states that since Palestine never approved the creation of Israel, they will not recognize Israel. The pro-Israel side states the opposite — the United Nations created us by democratic vote so we are here to stay. Israel is right. The reality is we cannot undo history. Israel has the right to exist and is here to stay — no amount of arguing or fighting will undo that.

      That fact established, we cannot stop the UN conversation here.

      A nation born by the UN must live by the UN. Since Israel’s creation, the United Nations has passed at least 42 Resolutions against Israel for violating international law — 17 of which were passed before Hamas existed. These include resolutions condemning Israel for illegal practices against civilians in Lebanon, condemning Israel’s contravention of the Fourth Geneva Convention, calling on Israel to withdraw from all Palestinian territories, calling on Israel to recognize the Palestinian right of return, and calling on Israel to respect Muslim holy places. Post-Hamas, the UN has passed Resolutions against Israel to abide by and accept the Fourth Geneva convention, condemning Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, condemning Israel’s killing of UN employees of the World Food Program, and condemning Israel settlements established since 1967 as illegal — all of which have nothing to do with Hamas. This further establishes point two above that Hamas is not the root cause of this conflict.

      Unfortunately and remarkably, Israel has asked and the United States has agreed to veto all 42 of these UN Resolutions. Israel cannot have it both ways. It cannot on one hand claim legitimacy by citing the United Nations decision to create Israel, and then ignore UN enforcement to hold Israel accountable to international law. If UN decisions are invalid now, then they were invalid at Israel’s creation. Likewise, and reasonably, since UN decisions were valid upon Israel’s creation, they must also be valid now and Israel must maintain justice accordingly.

  • Wayne J Scott


  • Golum

    “jesus christ” (pardon the expression)…ain’t it about time Israel got the full support of the U.S. Jews & Jewish Organizations??? What kind of schmucks are running these groups??? obama has lost theJewish vote for the Democratic Party in the next election!!!
    HILLARY…for you to speak out now…Too Little Too Late!!!

    • Brad cole

      I hope so, but I doubt it. The Jewish people will always automatically vote democratic. I could never understand why. The republican presidents have always given strong support to Israel. Maybe next time you might vote with your hearts and minds, and not just automatically check every name under the democratic column. Good luck. Obama is either a traitor, or a complete imbecile for for trusting a single word Iran says, other than “death to America”.

  • Bernie Kessler

    The sad truth is that the influence of the Moslem Brotherhood on American politics has manifested itself in our President’s overt concern with Netanyahu as a cover
    for his growing lack of concern for the citizens of Israel — the real stakeholders in in this political charade. America’s turnabout at the UN places the Jews at risk and that’s much more than punishing their PM. Goodbye Democrats. Call again when you get your house in order.

  • Irmgard Gesund

    Shame on the whole bunch of withering cowards, our so-called Jewish Leaders. Now they suddenly find their pathetic voices after all the damage their cowardly support of Obama has done!

    Instead of alerting our American Jews to the danger this administration has posed to Israel right from the start, they preferred the role of Court Jews. Now they can no longer conceal even from themselves, with all their feel-good liberal piousness, the abandonment of Israel by Obama and his realignment of US Policy with Iran.

    Can one say of them, “Better late than never”? I wonder.

  • I warned my fellow Jewish friends when President first ran for office that this man was not a friend of Israel. All you had to do was read his nuanced statements about Israel. He was disingenuous out of the gate. Since I was a conservative, (a Reform Jew however, a part of the “1%” of Reform Jews who is conservative politically) I was not to be listened to. Well, “I told you so.”

    • harry rogers

      You are not alone Ilbert. I too am a Reform Jew, fiscal conservative, social liberal. I never voted for him because I checked his background and knew he was an anti-American Marxist. He will continue to damage America until his term is over and he will sell out Israel in a New York minute.

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  • Leo Toystory

    Gee, Evangelical Christians have had a better grasp then have the Jews on Obama’s hatred of Israel. It’s been really worrisome since 2007 listening to my Jewish friends and family continue to make excuses for President BO and to poo-poo his muslim family and associations – all the time deriding those who’ve dared to point out the danger. If the leaders mentioned above really have a grasp on who and what Obama is and how he imperils not only the Jews of Israel, but even the safety of the United States itself, let them begin to seriously and repeatedly denounce this evil man for the threat and enemy that he most assuredly is.

  • steven L

    Too little, too late.
    Nevertheless the liberal Jews will continue to vote against Israel. Liberal Jews are not centrist.

    • Sofie Sokolov

      If Obama were to run again today, he would 5-10% of the Jewish vote.

  • President Obama suggested that “daylight” should be introduced between the U.S. and Israel. The only positive “daylight” in the 22 months to come should be between Democrats and the Obama Administration.

  • Reform School

    American Jewish “leaders” whose true religion is Socialism financed Obama, forcing him upon Israel, have been caught with their pants down. Torah mitzvot order them stoned. Tenure in their exalted positions (and matching earnings) would not survive the private sector, so why keep it here? Haman’s henchmen were hanged from the same gallows. The Diaspora needs Reality Checks and Attitude Adjustments.

  • Sara Klompus

    You forgot one thing: Iran also wants to destroy the united States
    It’s about to blow up and that’s exactly what Obama! Wake up Jews- it’s about time ! These are the true colonies of Obama! Electing him in he first time: a shonda
    The second time : shame on you!

  • yussi

    Its about time the leading jewish organizations have spoken out and now must throw their FULL SUPPORT behing Bibi and his realistic and aggressive moves. This is a matter of survival for Israel AND FOR JEWS WORLDWIDE!! So lets get it going NOW! If Iran gets the bomb we are all doomed. They must be stopped at all cost. Stop with the talking and concessions. Its time for sanctions and DEMANDS. Either they stop or suffer severe consequences.They are fanatics who do not value life and want to take over the world.STOP THEM NOW! Perhaps a march on washington to let this administration we mean business…as a starter.

  • Yussel

    If the Republican Party would select a moderate candidate, that candidate could win n a majority of the votes cast by American Jews. President Obama is fueling this shift and Hillary Clinton should be angry and scared.

  • I am not as educated as these man are, but it seems impossible not to have foreseen what Obama would do. I did. Now if you al could persuade your fellow Jews in Hollywood to wake up and stop supporting Obama and put some pressure on him, maybe then this Haman will ease up on Israel. But I doubt it.

  • It has unfortunately taken a long time for many of the above mentioned individuals to recognize the obvious: If a person spends the bulk of their time with anti Semites like Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, Bernadette Dohrn, Rev Wright, Rashid Khalidi and others, he too is an antisemite.

  • Ezra

    I am very pleased to read that many in the Jewish and Christian communities, especially influential leaders, are seeing past “feel good” policies (eg Oslo) that have been instituted by past and most especially current U.S. administration, are just that – feel good. There is unfortunately no substance nor a way to execute these policies on the ground or in reality.

    My hope is that leaders and the rest of us take a hard look at what the world is expecting of Israel, step back and consider whether it actually makes sense on the ground. I believe that if we all do this, we will soon realize that the world wants to see a defenseless Israel and by extension, European and possibly even US Jewry as it looked in the 1930s before the Shoah.