By Rabbi Dow Marmur.
It’s impossible to believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu didn’t know the views of Dr. Ran Baratz before nominating him as his next spokesman. Baratz lives in a settlement and has for a long time been publishing very right wing views. It seems that Netanyahu may want Obama to know when they meet next week that he agrees with them.
On the eve of his visit to the White House, he had to formally and lamely distance himself from Baratz’s description of President Obama as an anti-Semite and his disparaging comments about Secretary of State Kerry (as well as Israel’s president). But the move may have been more tactical than substantive.
Obama seems to know it. Therefore, he let it be known that he doesn’t expect any progress in Israeli-Palestinian relations during the remainder of his term of office. The trophy that Netanyahu is likely to come home with – a hefty aid package for Israel’s defense forces – is already a done deal. It was struck by the military establishments in both countries and sealed by their respective defense ministers. Nothing else will happen.
The other urgent issues that should be dealt with during the Obama-Netanyahu meeting will remain unresolved and greatly harm Israel. They include:
*The Syrian situation and Russia’s less than stellar involvement. Netanyahu did indeed go to see Putin in Moscow, but things may have become more complicated since then. Battles between Israeli and Russian forces along the border are no longer figments of a paranoid imagination. Cooperation with United States is badly needed.
*In view of the Syrian and Iranian situation, subtle negotiations between states such as Saudi Arabia and some of its Muslim neighbours are crucial. Progress would require US involvement. Netanyahu’s record in the Iran deal debate and the published views of his spokesman-in-waiting are bound to be obstacles impossible to overcome.
*Similarly, the involvement of the United States is needed to persuade the Palestinians to negotiate with Israel instead of trying to embarrass it in the United Nations and the International Criminal Court. The palpable chill between Obama and Netanyahu – all standard assurances to the contrary – are likely to make this impossible.
There’s a growing feeling that the Netanyahu government is misleading us. The Israel Democracy Institute has just drawn attention to the sad fact that in the few months of the new government six minister have already left for one reason or another. The prime minister himself holds on to some four portfolios.
In view of the reflections above, the fact that he is still the acting foreign minister with a deputy who only recently spoke of her dream of seeing the Israeli flag on the Temple Mount suggests that instead of seeking allies around the world, the current government is making enemies and further compromising Israel’s standing in the world.
It’s, therefore, laudable that Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the president of Union for Reform Judaism in the United States, has urged American Jewry to stand up to Israel’s current policies and by implication seek to strengthen the forces within Israel – alas, still a minority – who oppose the Netanyahu government on moral ands strategic grounds.
Though the continued wave of terrorist acts in Israel forces us to close ranks behind Israel’s defense forces, I’m among those who believe that we remain under a sacred obligation to express our opposition as loudly and as frequently as we can.
Jerusalem 7.11.15 (Motzaei Shabbat)