Magazine article The American Prospect

American Jews and the Mideast

Magazine article The American Prospect

American Jews and the Mideast

Article excerpt

"SHALOM CHAVER" ("GOOD-BYE, FRIEND") WAS PRESIDENT Bill Clinton's memorable refrain at slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin's funeral. And few things have demonstrated so clearly the profound link between the Israeli people and America as the "Shalom, Chaver" bumper stickers that showed up on Israeli cars after a right-wing Jew murdered the prime minister, in November 1995.

Twelve years later, the tatters of these bumper stickers can still be seen on the backs of autos, even as the Israeli nation drives aimlessly into the 40th year of a tragic occupation over the Palestinians. But the bumper stickers were more than an artifact of binational friendship; they were also a populist statement by a large number of Israelis that Bill Clinton understood them, and a thank-you to Clinton for trying to assist Rabin in bringing peace to the region.

Candidates running in the current presidential election would do well to remember the impact Clinton had on the Israeli public. They'd do equally well to recall the impact the Clinton presidency had on the American Jewish community, which fully embraced the agenda of the last Democratic chief executive, giving Clinton nearly 78 percent support in his 1996 reelection. Why was this so?

It wasn't simply that Clinton spoke with authority and compassion about the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, which he did. It wasn't simply that he personally tried to resolve the impasse, which he did. It wasn't simply that he appeared genuine in his affection for Israel, which he did. It was also that he represented the very same liberal sensibility that American Jews have clung to ever since they became an important voting bloc. And that support for a liberal agenda among American Jews has only strengthened since--precisely because George W. Bush has moved the domestic agenda so far toward the Christian right, embracing an ideology that is not only antithetical to the vast majority of American Jews but actually threatens their sense of freedom in this country.

And yet the playbooks of the current crop of presidential candidates, even one named Clinton, seem utterly uninformed by this history. The sole exception has been Bill Richardson, who mentioned that he would consider bringing former Secretary of State James Baker (the bete noir of more conservative-leaning Jews) back on board to get things moving in the Middle East. Perhaps Richardson--as a former negotiator himself, and with nowhere to go but up in the polls--was willing to take the gamble. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.