Ambassador Oren Gets it Right on "Pro-Israel" (LFriedman at The Daily Beast)

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Thank you, Ambassador Oren.  On Sunday you told an audience in Detroit what "pro-Israel" means.

You said that "The person who is pro-Israel recalls what Jewish life was like without a Jewish state and works to ensure that there always will be a Jewish state." Someone who "knows that there is a place at our table for divergent views. But irrespective of politics... asks, 'how can I contribute to Israel, how can I enrich it and be enriched by it...?'"  Someone who "appreciates the immense threats the people of Israel face every day" and "understands the threats to Israel of not achieving peace but also understands the threat to Israel of making a peace that will quickly unravel..."

Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America. (Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images)

You said, too, that pro-Israel means someone who "empathizes with those who live under the constant hazard of missile attack and with those who devote years of their lives--indeed risk their lives--for the safety of the Jewish state."  Someone who "recognizes the supreme danger of a nuclear-armed Iran..."  Someone who "takes pride in Israel's incalculable successes..." and "sees Israelis--left, right, religious, secular--not as some distant "Other" but as part of a whole--a dynamic, creative, rambunctious, and precious whole."  People who "view even those who disagree with them politically as part of their people, as mishpuchah..."

In the past I've criticized some things you've said.  Now I want to applaud you for these wise words.

Not everyone understands what pro-Israel means.  For example, there are Americans--Jews and Christians--who pretend it means fighting for Israeli dominion over all the land stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.  These people aren't pro-Israel--by your definition or mine.  They're pro-Greater-Israel.  The land, for them, has become a false god on whose altar they are prepared to sacrifice everything you and I love about Israel.

Supporters of Greater Israel are ready, for example, to sacrifice Israel's security to achieve their dream.  This was clear, for example, when they seized on the issue of "defensible borders" as a pretext for opposing any realistic peace agreement.  In truth, it is they who are undermining Israel's security by opposing such an agreement.   Holding on to the West Bank won't ensure Israel's security and comes at the cost of a peace agreement that could fundamentally alter, for the better, Israel's national security paradigm.  It could do so with respect to both the Palestinians and the region, making Israel and its borders more, not less, secure.                                                                         

Greater Israel partisans are likewise ready to sacrifice Israel's Jewish character. They are unworried at the prospect of an Israel in which Jews are a minority--an inevitability in the near-term if there is no two-state solution.  Likewise, defending Jewish law and Jewish values seems to be of no consequence to them when those laws and values come in conflict with the Greater Israel territorial agenda.   A right-wing rabbi rules that settlers may violate the Sabbath in order to build in settlements? No problem.  Prominent right-wing rabbis publish a book, The King's Torah, that is basically a twisted theological guide to murdering non-Jews? Silence. A chorus of right-wing voices defame some of Israel's most prominent rabbis for refusing to break with longstanding religious rulings regarding Jewish access to the Temple Mount?  Not a word.  Even when one Member of Knesset accused the rabbis of forming a covenant with the "extreme Left and the Wakf," and another right-wing leader said the ruling was "reminiscent of, if not worse than the rabbis who instructed Jews before the Holocaust not to immigrate to Israel."

Like you, I also believe that "pro-Israel" means defending Israeli democracy and preserving Israel as a place where, like my grandfather used to say, for any three Jews you will have four opinions. The Greater Israel crowd, however, is ready to sacrifice Israeli democracy to quash divergent views. They welcome anti-democratic initiatives in the Israeli Knesset; they are eager to shut down organizations who views they dislike; they will gladly see the Israeli Supreme Court neutered; and they embrace the demonization of those with whom they disagree. They are unconcerned with the erosion of the Israel's rule of law, including not only illegal settlement activities but also lawlessness among settlers and their supporters, even when it targets Jews. What else explains the fact that when a Jew anywhere in the world is terrorized, they raise the alarm, but when a Jew in Israel is attacked by another Jew--a settler or a settler supporter--they remain silent?

Thank you, Ambassador Oren, for so clearly identifying the key elements of what it means--or should mean--to be pro-Israel.  Your words draw a shining bright line between those of us who are fighting for Israel's survival and its future, and those who have demonstrated that their true devotion is not to Israel but to a messianic, expansionist vision that will cost Israel everything that I--and it seems you--hold dear.  

Originally published May 10, 2012 at The Daily Beast.