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J Street Walking

Jewish tradition holds that the people of Israel, after the long bondage in Egypt, did not want to leave willingly; salvation had to be forced upon them.  Similarly there are countless stories about slaves in America who unfortunately lost their inclination and drive for freedom, it was hard to re-awaken the freedom instinct in them.

After hearing Obama’s much-anticipated speech in Cairo, coupled with Hillary Clinton’s tough stance against Israel, the temptation was great to join many others and criticize Obama and his administration for positioning the Israel/US relationship on what appears to be an unavoidable collision course.  Iran is getting closer to a nuclear bomb; Hezbollah, despite losing the recent election, is getting closer to having full control of Lebanon; Hamas keeps smuggling long-range rockets into Gaza; and Obama seems to be fixated on stopping natural growth expansion in the settlements, an unattainable position for the current government of Israel.  And out of the shadows rises J Street (an AIPAC wannabe) with a front page Web site which reads:  “Following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s rejection of a full settlement freeze, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Wednesday that President Obama ’wants to see a stop to settlements – not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions.’ Amen. A freeze means a freeze.”

Rather than criticize J street and Obama, I strongly believe that both should be applauded for presenting a golden opportunity for change.  They are forcing modern Israel to choose between submitting again to US demands or truly gaining independence following 61 years of dependence on one, albeit faithful ally.  After all, J street can make its appeal for applying pressure on Israel exactly because of that dependence-based relationship.  The US has been, and still is, a true friend to Israel but now the US may be saying, “Dear friends, it is time to move forward and grow up.”  Israel should seize the opportunity and unequivocally say “no” to the US in a loud and clear voice when it deems Obama or any future US president’s ideas to be at odds with security concerns and other self interests.  And from that point on, especially in light of the realignment of the world order, Israel should not fear plunging into uncharted waters, exploring and forging new and strong alliances.  This should be done in addition to and not instead of the alliance with the US, an alliance which draws its strength from being multi-layered in nature.  It will undoubtedly enhance Israel’s long term survival.  Human history is one long experience of alliances, forming and shifting like the sand dunes of Saudi Arabia. It is the wise and healthy thing to do.  Avigdor Libeman, Israel’s foreign minister, is already openly and successfully doing just that in regards to Russia and, guess what? The skies are not falling.

Obama’s new approach to the Middle East represents a major tectonic shift which dwarfs the J Street leftist story and ideology and makes it irrelevant; after all the US currently is doing more than the J street ever hoped for.  Regardless, allow me to share a few thoughts about the organization at hand.  J Street was founded by Ben-Ami, a former senior domestic policy advisor to President Bill Clinton.  The difference between AIPAC and J Street precludes any logical attempt in equating the two.  AIPAC supports Israel irrespective of which government holds power; be it from the left or the right. J Street, on the other hand, has specific agendas. Its members consider it absolutely legitimate to support and encourage any US administration in employing pressure against a democratically elected government in order to achieve change that helps in promoting their ideology.

Furthermore, my colleague on the left claims that J Street promotes discussion. Fortunately, as of yet, arm twisting is not an official form of a dialogue. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that most Israelis, regardless of political affiliation, have a low threshold for acting subservient to others by accepting outside pressure, even from a long-time friend. Under certain scenarios, anti-American demonstrations and other expressions of resentment are a real possibility, which brings me back to the idea that it may be the most appropriate juncture to enhance and redefine Israel’s independence, before any real souring of relations takes place.  Think about it. A US president is leading modern Israel to experience true freedom. Yes he can.

The renowned Jewish humanistic psychologist Erich Fromm viewed “positive freedom” (the most elevated aspect of the self) as the freedom of self realization.  However he explains that the modern person, despite all the inroads that have been made, stills suffers from fear and is tempted to submit his freedom to others.  True, Fromm’s ideas are associated with the individual, but the concept could be equally applied to a country like Israel.

Parting thought . . .As always, there exists the possibility that the tensions developing between the US and Israel are only artificial and represent a well-planned scheme.  Under this scenario Iran falls into complacency, erroneously calculating that as long as the US and Israel are at odds with each other an attack on its nuclear facilities is unlikely any time soon.  Under such a plan Iran is left in the dark, guessing.

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