Netanyahu’s Speech Right

Eugen Shoenfeld is sure everyone knows about Iran’s nefarious intentions. Therefore, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech was unnecessary (“The Shame of Netanyahu’s Speech,” March AJT_NEWLOGO_Square20). But President Barack Obama can’t bring himself to even say the words “radical Islamist”; it’s likely that he thinks Iranian leaders really don’t mean it when they say they will wipe Israel off the map.
Contrary to Professor Shoenfeld’s contention, the prime minister was not urging us to go to war; he simply pointed out that a sunset clause in the proposed treaty would actually facilitate Iran’s progress toward obtaining nuclear weapons. He advocated making the relaxation of sanctions dependent on Iran’s exhibiting good behavior (such as ceasing to make threats against Israel and no longer funding terrorists) instead of being done on a fixed timetable.
Rather than showing a lack of derech eretz (good manners), Mr. Netanyahu was walking in the footsteps of the Jewish prophets. Just as Nathan confronted King David about Bathsheba and Uriah, and Elijah confronted King Ahab about Naboth’s garden, Mr. Netanyahu, rightly, felt that the threat to Israel (and the United States) necessitated that the speech be made, even if protocol needed to be circumvented.
Toby F. Block, Atlanta

On Bibi and Arab Voters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Election Day exhortation for his supporters to vote because Arabs were doing so “in droves” has become the white-and-gold dress of the American Jewish community.

(I’m referring, of course, to the outfit whose picture zipped around the Internet, appearing to some as blue and black and to others as white and gold. Nobody sees it as both or neither.)

Some American Jews are furious that Israel’s leader would appeal to the basest instincts of Israeli voters. They are embarrassed that the most prominent Israeli in the world sounded like a racist demagogue. Some have even begun to reconsider the extent and nature of their support for an Israel that overwhelmingly re-elected such a person.

Other American Jews are mystified about what’s upsetting the first group. They say Netanyahu’s remarks opposed only the policies of Arab voters, not their ethnicity, and that he was condemning the use of foreign money to bus them to the polls. More important, they’re so relieved that Israel has re-elected the only leader willing to stand up to the existential threats the nation faces that they cannot fathom the other group’s petty quibbling.

Nobody sees it as both or neither.

Major Jewish organizations took sides, and not always the ones you’d expect. Conservative Judaism’s Rabbinical Assembly issued a statement condemning Netanyahu’s “singling out Arab citizens for exercising their legitimate right to vote” and saying that “it is incumbent upon Jews around the world to denounce the Prime Minister’s divisive and undemocratic statement.”

Abraham Foxman is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, which boasts that it “fights all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Yet he rejected the RA’s stance, telling New York’s Jewish Week that it was “an “intemperate, inappropriate overreaction” to simple “election overzealousness.”

The impact of Netanyahu’s remark will go far beyond Jewish organizational divisiveness. Israel supporters on campus will face renewed claims that Israel is a racist state. The contrasting approaches to Israel advocacy of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and J Street will come into sharper focus. But perhaps most significantly, Hillary Clinton will be forced to disclose what color dress she sees.

There will be no middle ground. So get ready for a wrenching and fascinating episode in American Jewish life.

David Benkof, St. Louis

The writer is senior political editor for the Daily Caller and edits the AJT crossword puzzle.