Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog made the case Monday, Nov. 9, that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is driving a wedge between Israeli Jews and American Jews.

“We cannot lie,” he told the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America in Washington. “We cannot say that everything is perfect and everything looks good between the two major Jewish communities in the world.”

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog says Israel needs U.S. Jewish involvement to decide how to lead the Jewish people through the next 50 years. Photo by Michael Jacobs

Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog says Israel needs U.S. Jewish involvement to decide how to lead the Jewish people through the next 50 years. (Photo by Michael Jacobs)

The Labor Party leader argued that the “Jewish-Arab conflict” is looming over everything and will define the fate of Israel as a Jewish state. He also said the Israeli and American communities must be partners in the work and thus must listen to each other.

In the prelude to laying out his vision for Israel, Herzog noted that he was speaking close to two important anniversaries in the history of the nation: the 20th anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and the 40th anniversary of the U.N. resolution equating Zionism with racism, which Herzog’s father, Chaim, tore up in the middle of the U.N. assembly.

Herzog presented a three-element vision of Israel:

  • Jewish because that’s the gist of our being after thousands of years of praying for next year in Jerusalem.
  • Democratic because there cannot be a Jewish state that is not democratic.
  • Peace-seeking because only the pursuit of peace will enable Israel to remain Democratic and Jewish.

Herzog said his vision requires that Israelis fight xenophobia and racism at home and stand up for pluralism so that every Jew may practice Judaism as he or she wishes.

He regretted that only two members of the Knesset were attending the GA, besides himself and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the next day, because he said that attendance reflected Israelis’ tendency to forget their shared values with U.S. Jews and to overlook the great stories of American Jewish communities.

“You are the ones who fostered and enhanced the unique relationship so important to secure the state of Israel,” Herzog said. “My vision is that we will know how to respect this partnership, that we will really build this partnership” to serve Jewish generations 50 and 100 years in the future.