US Jews fear collision with expected Israeli government

Dec 6, 2022, 8:43 AM | Updated: Dec 7, 2022, 7:20 am
FILE - Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, center, surrounded by right wing activists with Israeli fl...

FILE - Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, center, surrounded by right wing activists with Israeli flags, speaks to the media as they gather for a march in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Major Jewish American organizations, traditionally a bedrock of support for Israel, have expressed alarm over the presumptive government's far-right character. Given American Jews' predominantly liberal political views and affinity for the Democratic Party, these misgivings could have a ripple effect in Washington and further deepen what has become a partisan divide over support for Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

(AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

              FILE - Israeli far-right lawmaker and the head of "Jewish Power" party, Itamar Ben-Gvir, gestures after first exit poll results for the Israeli Parliamentary election at his party's headquarters in Jerusalem, Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2022. Major Jewish American organizations, traditionally a bedrock of support for Israel, have expressed alarm over the presumptive government's far-right character. Given American Jews' predominantly liberal political views and affinity for the Democratic Party, these misgivings could have a ripple effect in Washington and further deepen what has become a partisan divide over support for Israel. (AP Photo/Oren Ziv, File)
            
              FILE- A U.S. flag is seen through a hole torn in an Israel national flag, as they wave in the wind at a horse ranch, near the southern Israeli town of Sderot, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. Major Jewish American organizations, traditionally a bedrock of support for Israel, have expressed alarm over the presumptive government's far-right character. Given American Jews' predominantly liberal political views and affinity for the Democratic Party, these misgivings could have a ripple effect in Washington and further deepen what has become a partisan divide over support for Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty, File)
            
              FILE - Israeli lawmaker Itamar Ben-Gvir, center, surrounded by right wing activists with Israeli flags, speaks to the media as they gather for a march in Jerusalem, Wednesday, April 20, 2022. Major Jewish American organizations, traditionally a bedrock of support for Israel, have expressed alarm over the presumptive government's far-right character. Given American Jews' predominantly liberal political views and affinity for the Democratic Party, these misgivings could have a ripple effect in Washington and further deepen what has become a partisan divide over support for Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit, File)

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s ties to the Jewish American community, one of its closest and most important allies, are about to be put to the test, with Israel’s emerging far-right government on a collision course with Jews in the United States.

Major Jewish American organizations, traditionally a bedrock of support for Israel, have expressed alarm over the far-right character of the presumptive government led by conservative Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu. Given American Jews’ predominantly liberal political views and affinity for the Democratic Party, these misgivings could have a ripple effect in Washington and further widen what has become a partisan divide over support for Israel.

“This is a very significant crossroads,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, a liberal, pro-Israel group in Washington. “The potential for specific actions that could be taken by this government, these are the moments when the relationship between the bulk of American Jews and the state of Israel begins to really fray. So I’m very afraid.”

Jewish-American leaders appear especially worried about the prominent role expected to be played by a trio of hard-line, religious lawmakers. The three have made racist anti-Arab statements, denigrated the LGBTQ community, attacked Israel’s legal system and demonized the liberal, non-Orthodox streams of Judaism popular in the U.S. All vehemently oppose Palestinian independence.

“These are among the most extreme voices in Israeli politics,” said Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish movement in the U.S. “What will be the trajectory of a new Israeli government with such voices in such key leadership roles is of deep, deep concern.”

More centrist organizations, such as the Anti-Defamation League, which fights antisemitism and other forms of hatred, and the Jewish Federations of North America, an umbrella group that supports hundreds of Jewish communities, have also spoken out.

Though these groups, like J Street and the Reform movement, support a two-state solution with the Palestinians, their recent statements have focused on Israel’s democratic ideals. The Anti-Defamation League said that including the three far-right lawmakers in a government “runs counter to Israel’s founding principles.” The Federations called for “inclusive and pluralistic” policies.

For decades, American Jews have played a key role in promoting close ties between the U.S. and Israel. They have raised millions of dollars for Israeli causes, spoken out in Israel’s defense and strengthened strong bipartisan support for Israel in Washington.

But this longstanding relationship has come under strain in recent years — especially during Netanyahu’s 2009-2021 rule.

Netanyahu’s hard-line policies toward the Palestinians, his public spats with Barack Obama over peacemaking and the Iranian nuclear issue and his close ties with Donald Trump put him at odds with many in the American Jewish community.

Opinion polls show that roughly three-quarters of American Jews lean toward the Democratic Party. They tend to be more critical of the Israeli government and more sympathetic to the Palestinians than their Republican counterparts, with these divisions even wider among younger Jews in their 20s.

These trends appear set to go into hyper-drive as Netanyahu prepares to return to power after a year and a half as opposition leader, this time flanked by some of the country’s most extremist politicians.

After winning elections last month, Netanyahu and his allies are still forming their coalition. But he already has reached a number of deals that are setting off alarm bells overseas.

Itamar Ben-Gvir, a lawmaker known for his anti-Arab vitriol and provocative stunts, has been offered the job of national security minister, a powerful position that will put him in charge of Israel’s national police force. This includes the paramilitary border police, a unit on the front lines of much of the fighting with Palestinians in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

Ben-Gvir has labeled Arab lawmakers “terrorists” and called for deporting them. He wants to impose the death penalty on Palestinian attackers and grant soldiers immunity from prosecution.

Netanyahu also has agreed to appoint the lawmaker Avi Maoz as a deputy minister overseeing a new authority in charge of “Jewish identity” and giving him responsibilities over Israel’s educational system.

Maoz is known for his outspoken anti-LGBTQ positions and disparaging remarks about the Reform movement and other non-Orthodox Jews.

He wants a ban on Pride parades, has compared gays to pedophiles and wants to allow some forms of conversion therapy, a discredited practice that tries to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of LGBTQ children.

Maoz hopes to change Israel’s “Law of Return,” which allows anyone with a single Jewish grandparent to immigrate to Israel, and replace it with a much stricter definition of who is a Jew. He also opposes non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism. This is an affront to liberal Jewish groups, which have less rigid views on Jewish identity.

Bezalel Smotrich, a settler leader with a history of anti-gay and anti-Palestinian comments, has been granted widespread authority over settlement construction and Palestinian civilian life in the occupied West Bank.

Netanyahu has been generous toward his allies because they support major legal reforms that could freeze or dismiss his corruption trial. Critics say such moves will imperil Israel’s democratic foundations.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Netanyahu tried to play down such concerns as he vowed to safeguard democracy and LGBTQ rights. “I ultimately decide policy,” he said.

Halie Soifer, chief executive of the Jewish Democratic Council of America, said it is premature to judge a government that hasn’t yet taken office. But she acknowledged the concerns about issues like LGBTQ rights, Palestinian rights and respect for democracy – particularly with memories of the Trump administration still fresh.

“Many of those concerns are based on our own experience with an administration that didn’t share our values,” said Soifer.

Whether U.S. policy will be affected is unclear. The Biden administration has said it will wait to see policies, not personalities, of the new government.

But Eric Alterman, author of “We Are Not One,” a new book about relations between Israel and American Jews, says the sides are moving in opposite directions.

Progressive Democrats already have pushed for a tougher approach to Israel because of its treatment of the Palestinians.

“It may come suddenly. It may come in pieces. But there’s simply a break coming between American Jews and Israeli Jews,” Alterman said.

___

Associated Press writers Eleanor H. Reich in Jerusalem, Luis Henao in New York and Peter Smith in Pittsburgh contributed reporting.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - People visit the Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida...
Associated Press

Florida to begin session on Disney district, migrant flights

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida lawmakers will meet Monday to complete a state takeover of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and expand a migrant relocation program, key conservative priorities of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis ahead of his expected White House run. Republican leaders of the statehouse, in coordination with DeSantis, have ordered the Legislature to […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Media watchdog urges release of journalist detained in Kabul

PARIS (AP) — Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders along with 14 French media outlets and production companies on Monday called on Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers to release a journalist imprisoned for a month in Kabul. In a joint statement, RSF and French media said journalist Mortaza Behboudi, with dual French and Afghan citizenship, was arrested on […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

Liz Weston: ‘Bridge’ your way to Social Security

Delaying the start of Social Security benefits is a powerful way for retirees to cope with inflation, survive bad investment markets and reduce the risk they’ll run short of money. The advantages of waiting are so great that financial planners often recommend their clients tap other savings, such as retirement funds, to help them delay […]
1 day ago
Associated Press

48 arrested in Europe over encrypted app used in drug trade

BERLIN (AP) — European investigators have shut down an encrypted communication service that was used as a secure channel for organized crime, particularly in the drug trade, and arrested 48 people, German authorities said Monday. More than 70 properties were searched in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and Poland on Friday, when the arrests were made, […]
1 day ago
NATO's Deputy Secretary General Mircea Geoana, left, and Norway's Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store, ...
Associated Press

Norway looks to donate $7.3 billion in aid to Ukraine

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Oil-rich Norway is looking to donate 75 billion kroner ($7.3 billion) to Kyiv as part of a five-year support package that would make the Scandinavian country one of the world’s biggest donors to war-torn Ukraine, the Norwegian government said Monday. Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the money would be split […]
1 day ago
A woman walks out from a residential building which was hit by a Russian rocket, in the city center...
Associated Press

Russian forces keep up pressure as Ukraine anniversary nears

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are keeping Ukrainian troops tied down with fighting in the eastern Donbas region as Moscow assembles additional combat power there for an expected offensive in the coming weeks, Ukrainian officials said Monday. Weeks of intense fighting continued to rage around the city of Bakhmut and the nearby towns of […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

safety from crime...

As crime increases, our safety measures must too

It's easy to be accused of fearmongering regarding crime, but Seattle residents might have good reason to be concerned for their safety.
Comcast Ready for Business Fund...
Ilona Lohrey | President and CEO, GSBA

GSBA is closing the disparity gap with Ready for Business Fund

GSBA, Comcast, and other partners are working to address disparities in access to financial resources with the Ready for Business fund.
SHIBA WA...

Medicare open enrollment is here and SHIBA can help!

The SHIBA program – part of the Office of the Insurance Commissioner – is ready to help with your Medicare open enrollment decisions.
Lake Washington Windows...

Choosing Best Windows for Your Home

Lake Washington Windows and Doors is a local window dealer offering the exclusive Leak Armor installation.
Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
US Jews fear collision with expected Israeli government