Many of the nation’s top Jewish leaders gathered in Washington, D.C., on short notice Monday to join U.S. lawmakers in expressing solidarity with the embattled state of Israel. The event, held at the National Press Club, highlighted unity within the Jewish community among the three main denominational movements and across the political spectrum.
The speakers included Majority Leader-elect Kevin McCarthy (D-Calif.); Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.); House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.); Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents; Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer; and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
National Security Advisor Susan Rice keynoted the event. “I think the driving message from the National Leadership Assembly was that the Jewish community nationally is in solidarity with Israel,” said William Daroff, senior vice president for public policy and director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America. “That we are of one mind when it comes to supporting Israel’s right to defend itself and that we demand that any final agreement or any long-term truce include the demilitarization of Gaza.”
Various media leaks of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s recently proposed cease-fire deal appeared not to include Hamas’ disarmament. Kerry became the target of criticism in Israeli media as the deal looked like a concession to Hamas.
Dermer defended Kerry in his speech, saying that the criticism was “unwarranted” and then added that he appreciated the efforts of the Secretary and President Barack Obama.
But he also reiterated his position that Israel reserves the right to completely eradicate the threat posed by Hamas.
“Israel will continue to destroy the tunnels we have found, regardless of whether there is a cease-fire or not, and I know the Obama administration understands and supports that,” Dermer said.
“Everyone should understand that to expect Israel to leave these terror tunnels intact is like expecting Israel to seize 10,000 Hamas rockets in Gaza and simply hand them back to Hamas. That’s not going to happen. Israel will destroy the tunnels we have found and will not stop until that job is done.”
Geoffrey Melada and JNS.org contributed to this story.