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April 12, 2015 2:37 pm

Trouble for J Street? Liberal Jews Turn on Obama Over Iran Deal

avatar by Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn

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President Obama and Cuban strongman Raul Castro. Photo: White House.

The top political and intellectual leaders of the Israeli left are coming out against President Obama’s capitulation to Iran. This development will impact the political dynamics in Israel, the American Jewish community, and the US-Israel relationship. And it will leave J Street on the fringe, once again.

Israel’s Labor Party opposition, known during the recent election campaign as the Zionist Union, issued an official press release on April 2 criticizing Obama’s Iran deal. The head of the party’s Knesset delegation, MK Eitan Cabel, elaborated on his Facebook page: “I refuse to join those applauding the agreement with Iran, because the truth is it keeps me awake at night. President Obama promises that if the Iranians cheat, the world will know, but isn’t that exactly what the Americans promised after the agreement with North Korea?”

The senior Labor Party official continued: “When a crazy religious regime with a proven track record of terrorism and cheating receives permission to get that close to a nuclear bomb, I am very worried. The fact that the man who is in charge of making sure the deal won’t be broken has a proven record of mocking his own redlines, makes me even more worried.”

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Calling Prime Minister Netanyahu’s efforts against the Iran deal “a correct struggle,” the Labor Party MK emphasized that he is “standing behind Netanyahu” because “in the face of a nuclear Iran, there is no coalition and there is no opposition–we are all Israelis.”

Meanwhile, Haaretz editor Aluf Benn, himself a virulent critic of Netanyahu in the past, wrote on April 5 that Netanyahu’s call for the international community to insist that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist was taken directly from the campaign rhetoric of Labor Party chairman Yitzhak Herzog.

There are signs of change among leading Israeli left-wing intellectuals, as well. Israeli author Ari Shavit, who has been the darling of the American Jewish left because of his recent book urging more Israeli concessions to the Arabs, may find himself with fewer speaking engagements on these shores in the near future, now that he too has come out against the Iran capitulation.

Writing for Politico on April 2, Shavit called Obama’s deal “a terrible historic mistake.”

“If Iran is nuclearized, everyone’s values and way of life will be endangered,” Shavit wrote. “If the Middle East is nuclearized, the 21st century will become a century of nuclear terror andnuclear horror. The deal that Obama announced on Thursday does not do enough to prevent this. Does an agreement that allows Iran to keep 6,100 spinning centrifuges really lock under 1,000 locks and bolt behind 1,000 bolts the Iranian nuclear project? Does an agreement that allows Iran to maintain research and development capabilities and an underground facility on Fordow really fully take advantage of Iran’s economic frailty in order to ensure the dismantling of its nuclear infrastructure?”

By contrast, J Street, the pro-Palestinian lobbying group that represents a portion of the American Jewish left, is defending President Obama’s Iran capitulation and doing everything possible to help him get the deal past Congress and other critics.

Until just days ago, J Street, the Israeli Labor Party, Haaretz, and Ari Shavit were all close allies in the electoral battle to defeat Prime Minister Netanyahu. J Street supporters and donors threw themselves into the campaign, importing American-style political tactics and arguments that they erroneously believed would work in the Middle East.

Now, suddenly, J Street finds itself at odds with leading voices of the Israeli left. Why are Israeli and American Jewish left-wingers responding so differently to the Iran deal? Simple: because Israelis have to live with the consequences.

For the J Street crowd, it’s easy enough to mouth slogans from the comforts of Potomac and Scarsdale. They will never have to suffer the real-life consequences of their advice. But their Israeli former-comrades know that their favorite cafe in Tel Aviv is just as likely to be hit by an Iranian nuclear missile as some Jewish community in Judea or Samaria.

In the face of the new Israeli left-right consensus on Iran, J Street will be effectively pushed back to the fringes in the American Jewish community. But don’t expect the J Streeters to reconsider their positions. Diehard ideologues rarely have a change of heart, no matter what is happening in the world around them. In the months ahead, they will probably pretend that the Israeli left doesn’t exist, and concentrate their fire on American Jewish leaders andcongressmen who dare to question Obama.

Because that, in the end, is J Street’s true mission – not to facilitate peace, not to help protect Israel, but to facilitate President Obama’s political agenda and to protect him from Jewish critics.

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

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  • I would love for J street to have a reality check.

  • Joann krohn

    Why did the President agree to change the UN support?
    Hamas must live to have a no terrorists as 2 States side by side

  • Better late than never….

  • mc

    Israel was founded to make Jews feel normal. American progressivism is about making the privileged feel special. Of course there will be conflicts on issues of life and death.

  • Aiming for Clarity

    Obama has consistently attacked Israel – which is important to the U.S. and Jews – through all means. He’s an ally of Iran and Islamists. E.g., http://www.weeklystandard.com/….

    Nothing – nothing! – has made Obama as publicly mad as Netanyahu’s directly addressing U.S. Congress. Obama’s priorities are way off:

    – Skips on world leader march in Paris after Charlie Hebdo attacks and Holocaust Remembrances,

    – Says he won’t meet with Netanyahu, but

    – Opts instead to pay his respects to KSA while it continues to lash imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, whom KSA has sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting his country’s clerics.

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/24/

    Liberals – quick to avail of free speech and assembly rights – oppose Enlightenment values to uphold those of censors, murderers, and terrorists.

    Am through with Dems and Libs. I am sticking with Israel.

  • You guys helped put this swine into office overwhelmingly by 76 Pct of the Jewish vote. Now you whine!! I have no sympathy for any of you!!!

  • H. Tabachnick

    Bad deal. NOT TRUSWORTHY.
    No controls
    Can’t get true inspections

  • Israel has only one choice should Iran become a nuclear threat – to take Iran’s nukes out with nukes. That would set Iran back as the bomb factory sites would be contaminated for years to come.

  • Joel Loeffelholz

    Let us not forget that JStreet was created and came into existence in the early days of Obama’s first campaign by radical left wing diehard self hating “Jewsish” ideologues who served proudly in key positions in the Jimmy Carter administration.

    Let us also never forget Obama’s first trip off of American soil after being elected, Cairo, where he so forcefully “apologized” to the “Arab World” for their “decades long” “terrible treatment at the hands of America.”

    Let us always remember that Obama and his wife were proud members and gladly sat and listened for 20 years in Jerimaia Wright’s Church, invited him to their home for dinner parties and meetings and proudly took his advice and counsel,

  • Lynne T

    JStreet represents George Soros’s world view and a job for the otherwise unemployable Jeremy Ben Ami. The shameless cheerleading for the P5+1 talks has made that crystal clear to anyone with half a brain.

  • BRYNABABY

    Well, I don’t care for the tone of the last sentence in this article, but I do hope he is right about marginalizing J Street. I am a liberal American and that opportunistic, arrogant Jeremy Ben Ami does NOT speak for me and my friends- and never did.

    • Alex

      I certainly hope that Ben Ami doesn’t represent your ideas. However, you being a liberal means Obama, at least at some point in the last 10 years, represented your ideas.

      American Jews should be ashamed of themselves. Ashamed of their assimilation, ashamed of their ideologies, and ashamed of voting Obama twice.

      If Israel were your absolute priority as a Jew, you would not elect Democrats.

  • AT the end of the day, Iran has to be stopped and put init’s place and if that means that Obama’s feelings get hurt well tough bananas, it is time for him to retire.

  • Too late! Why didn’t they speak out when Netanyahu spoke to Congress?

  • Pierre Elie Mamou

    When a president (in tha case, Us president) helps a crazy religious and murderer regime to get a nuclear bomb aiming at (in this case) Israel, the president is so crazy and murderer than the regime he is helping

  • Howie Subnick

    What took these liberal Jews so long to see what Obama is doing to the Jews?! Some one must have helped them shovel their heads out of the sand. Now we’ll see how long this will last, BUT to the smart Jews, all I can say is SHALOM.

  • Chui

    Why is Obama endearing himself to Iran when he knows very well that Iran uses Israel as a laboratory to test her tools of quire trade? When neighbourhood is strained, distant neighbours can’t come in to take sides but to reconcile them.

  • To add to the disatrous state of affairs, the USA and Iran seem to have two different agreements, and possibly France has a third version. Iran complains about the crippling economic sanctions, but continues to bankroll terrorism across the Middle East. How much moreso will Iran provide groups like Hamas and Hezbollah with advanced weapons to attack Israel if the economic sanctions are lifted.

  • Ephraim

    Right on the money.

  • historian

    Of course it only makes sense because he has turned his back on the Jewish people and a president Israel can not depene on

  • yussi

    irrelivant

  • yussi

    J street is a pox on the jewish community..most of these so called liberals probably lived in the 5 boros but as soon as a black or puerto rican moved into the neighborhood they ran for the hills,dix Hills,Scarsdale etc. tey are phonies..and a detriment to the jewsh community.Lets make them rrelevant.

  • Scott

    Well said Sir and here in the USA we must defeat Mrs. HRC aka: Obama III
    She is no friend of Israel and one of her top aids has direct ties to the Muslim Brotherhood (Huma Abedin) – No, this is not a conspiracy theory…..

    Look her up at:
    http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/individualProfile.asp?indid=2556

  • GREAT

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