Magazine article Tikkun

Who Speaks for Us?

Magazine article Tikkun

Who Speaks for Us?

Article excerpt

WHILE HE WAS PREPARING FOR HIS FIRST visit to Washington as Israel's new Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert was told not to ask for any money for his "Convergence" plan. The message came from the State Department, but was sent to Olmert through Malcolm Hoenlein, the Executive Vice President of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Obviously, Hoenlein plays a very significant role in relations between Israel and the United States. But how many American Jews have even heard of him? Or of Howard Kohr, Executive Director of AIPAC? These are names that should be known to all American Jews, because these are the voices that are speaking for the American Jewish collective.

Wherever one stands on the question of how much influence various lobbying forces have on America's Middle East policy, it is clear that American Jewish opinion, or at least the perception ofthat opinion, carries significant weight. And, from the Washington, D. C. perspective, American Jewish opinion is that the United States should never bring any tangible pressure, economic or diplomatic, to bear on Israel no matter what it does; that no matter how much Israel expands its settlements, cuts off Palestinian food supplies or continues with assassination operations that routinely cause civilian deaths, the United States should never do anything more than cluck its tongue, if even that.

Is that what American Jews really believe? Polling data says otherwise. For example, a survey conducted last year by Ameinu, an American Zionist organization, showed that 47 percent of American Jews believe the United States should indeed pressure Israel to be more conciliatory to the Palestinians (in fact, only 20 percent said the United States should not pressure Israel). And even within such polls, there are complexities. For instance, a similar plurality approved of Israel abandoning "most of the West Bank settlements," but they were not even given the option to choose "all the settlements."

A 2003 survey conducted by Americans for Peace Now showed strong support for a settlement freeze. Over 70 percent of the poll's respondents supported it. Further, when asked if Israel should freeze settlements first or if Palestinians should first stop terrorist attacks, more than 56 percent of those surveyed said that both actions should be undertaken simultaneously, a clear statement of nonsupport for Israeli policy. …

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