Examining American Jews’ role in Israeli politics

posted in: April 2015, Opinion | 0
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By Jacqueline Hyman & Jacob Schaperow
Opinion editor, editor-in-chief
@jacqbh58, @jschap1

With the Israeli elections over and the Iran nuclear deal closing last week, it is worth discussing what kind of role American Jews should play in Israeli politics.

American Jews have taken a strong stance against Iran since former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s infamous “wipe Israel off the map” quotation in 2005. We have been justifiably concerned with making the world recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist. However, when it comes to Israel’s own policies, we as American Jews sometimes exceed our scope.

The nuclear deal was a case where American Jews had the right to weigh in on the decision because it was ultimately a U.S. foreign policy decision. Domestic Israeli policies, on the other hand, such as new settlement construction or whether Israel should pull out of the West Bank, are Israelis’ decisions to make. American Jews need to trust Israelis to elect leaders who will make the right decisions for Israel on policies affecting Israelis on the ground.

The Iran deal would reduce sanctions in exchange for the country subjecting its nuclear program to international inspections, while continuing to restrict Iran’s access to uranium and plutonium. If Iran breaks the deal, the U.S. and other countries enforce the former sanctions, President Barack Obama said.

By creating this deal, America is saying that it is ready to support Israel and sending that message clearly to Iranians,  Obama said in an interview for The New York Times. However, the deal has drawn criticism from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who believes that its terms will not guarantee safety for his people.

The foreign policy domain is where non-Israelis should have a say. Israel depends on American cooperation for a large degree of its economic and military well-being. And American Jews have a connection to Israel, however protected from the country’s on-the-ground issues we may be.

We send money to organizations like the Jewish National Fund, buy Israeli bonds, make pilgrimages to the country, and lobby American politicians to lend aid to Israel. However, while supporting the country, we need to remain cognizant that the Israeli government is not always going to reflect our worldviews.

Jews feel that they should care heavily about the state of Israel, no matter where they are from, because it is the one and only Jewish state. And although we should stay involved and be concerned for the prosperity of our “home,” we cannot pretend that we know what is best for a country whose trials and tribulations we have not experienced firsthand.

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