The U.S.-Israel relationship has been strained lately, with the two allies disagreeing over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, settlements, peace negotiations and U.S. visa waivers. American Jewish supporters of Israel often find themselves caught in the middle, between trying to defend Israel and their loyalty to the United States.
Avinoam Bar-Yosef is interested in this “triangular relationship.” As founder and president of the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Washington-style think tank based in Jerusalem, Bar-Yosef said he makes recommendations to American Jewish organizational leaders and the Israeli government about how to conduct the relationship.
Bar-Yosef was in Washington on Sept. 5 to meet with local board members, including former high-ranking U.S. officials Stuart Eizenstat, Elliott Abrams and Dennis Ross.
He said the Israeli government needs to consider how its actions will affect Jews in the Diaspora.
“We recommended that when Israel does actions, it will first gather the intelligence on the effects those actions will have on Jews around the world – and prepare [the Jews],” he said. “It is critical for Israel to have a dialogue with the Diaspora.”
Another issue is the inclusivity if the American Jewish community. “We recommended that everybody should be welcomed in the tent of the [Jewish] community. That should be encouraged by Israel.”
Everybody doesn’t mean anybody, he clarified. Those allowed in include Jews who criticize Israel from “inside the community.” Those who are “active outside against Israel – who call on the administration to be harsher against Israel,” or who support the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel should not be welcomed into the tent, he said.
Asked who should decide who meets these criteria, he said, “What I’m afraid of is intimidation,” that those on the extremes will silence the moderates in the Jewish community.
He does not believe that acts of anti-Semitism in the United States and Europe that coincided with the war in Gaza were caused by Israel’s attacks against Hamas.
“I’m not part of those who believe that anti-Semitism was born in 1948” when Israel was created, he said.