After an ugly week, not giving up hope on Israel


Last week was ugly. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s inducement of a political merger that could actually bring Kahanists back to the Knesset was rightly condemned throughout the American Jewish community.

As I told Haaretz last week, I am truly appalled by Netanyahu’s joining of Kahane Chai descendent Otzma Yehudit and Jewish Home, which not just strengthens the far right but actually encourages and legitimizes racists in Israel’s political establishment.

In case you missed it, Israel Policy Forum’s Executive Director David Halperin published an op-ed in the Forward warning how such reprehensible moves would deepen the divide between Israel and American Jews. In an op-ed in Ha’aretz, our Policy Director Michael Koplow argued that the damage could ultimately weaken Israel’s claims to regional moral authority, which is one of its critical national security assets, and he wrote another op-ed on the matter in the Forward.

Sadly, we can expect that the coming weeks of the Israeli election will bring ugly and divisive rhetoric from politicians, much of which will be difficult to stomach for those of us who care deeply about Israel.

But as I told Haaretz, I am not giving up on Israel. Last week was a difficult one for all of us who care about the shared values that have long been at the heart of the U.S.-Israel relationship. I imagine that many of you may share my grave concerns about where Israel could be headed. As Americans, we don’t have a vote in the upcoming election, but I firmly believe that our voice is still critical.

The next few months could easily shape the story of the Jewish people for years to come. The future of Israel, its relationship with American Jews, and the strength of the U.S.-Israel alliance will all be tested. Those of us who care deeply about the enduring relationship between Israel and the Jewish community have an important role to play. I believe that American Jews must not give up on Israel; neither can we forfeit our responsibility to be heard.

Susie Gelman, a member of the ownership group of Mid-Atlantic Media, which publishes Washington Jewish Week, is the chair of Israel Policy Forum, a non-partisan organization that supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, consistent with Israel’s security and long-term future as a Jewish and democratic state. This article is adapted from a recent letter she sent to the group’s supporters.

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