I’m trying to understand the sort of mindlessness that expressed itself in the jeering at Treasury Secretary Jacob (“Jack”) Lew by some Jews at a recent gathering.
The third Jerusalem Post Annual Conference, which took place in Manhattan on June 7 and featured Israeli and American officials and journalists, was convened with the hope of garnering international attention. It succeeded, if only in the widespread reportage of the way some in attendance reacted to Mr. Lew’s measured and accurate words.
Applause ensued when he told the crowd that the U.S. continues to consider Israel’s security a top priority as it negotiates a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear capabilities and that “we must never allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon.”
The Treasury Secretary then explained how the U.S.-led sanctions against Iran were intended to pressure that country to agree to negotiations about limiting and monitoring its nuclear program, and that they succeeded. The first murmurs from the crowd were heard then.
And then, when he asserted that Iran’s movement toward a nuclear weapon had been arrested for now, and that an agreement, if one is signed, would thwart the outlaw nation’s suspected designs, the booing began in ugly earnest.
Mr. Lew is an Orthodox Jew with impeccable pro-Israeli security credentials who worked in the 1980s with Natan Sharansky to secure freedom for Soviet Jews and served for a year as Mr. Obama’s Chief of Staff. With the knowledge of a true insider he went on to assert that “We are not operating on an assumption that Iran will act in good faith” and that “No administration has done more for Israel’s security than this one.”
Members of the audience openly jeered. One called out “Nonsense!” Another shouted “Chamberlain,” a reference to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who tried to appease the Nazis.
According to one Israeli journalist present, it was “one of the surliest receptions ever accorded to such a high-ranking administration official by a Jewish audience in the United States.”
Jerusalem Post editor Steve Linde tried to quiet the audience. Mr. Lew, looking sad, pleaded, “I only ask that you listen to me as we’ve listened to you,” to no avail.
Clearly taken aback by what transpired at its conference, the Jerusalem Post subsequently published an editorial calling Mr. Lew “a true friend” of Israel.
I do get that some American Jews regard any deal with Iran, even one that will include monitoring of all Iranian nuclear facilities and strict limits on Iran’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon, as a bad idea. Even though the only alternatives are to do nothing or to attack Iran, which knowledgeable Israeli and American military and intelligence experts say would only somewhat set back Iran’s nuclear program and would further incentivize the rogue nation’s determination to attack Israel and the West.
But don’t those who feel that war is preferable to a deal realize that it is not only uncouth but counterproductive to express their view by booing an Administration official (much less an accomplished, informed and pro-Israel one like Mr. Lew)?
Apparently not. The mentality of such jeerers is that Jews are no longer in galus, that Israel doesn’t need the U.S., that her existence constitutes the Geulah sheleimah and that Benjamin Netanyahu is, if not Moshiach himself, his harbinger.
The catcallers were likely among those who decried the U.S. Supreme Court decision the very next day that ruled in favor of the White House and undermined an act of Congress that aimed to allow U.S. citizens born in Yerushalayim to request passports listing Israel as their birthplace.
As nice as it would be for the U.S. to recognize Israel’s sovereignty over Yerushalayim, all American presidents since 1948, when the U.S. recognized Israel, consistently held the position that no state has sovereignty over Yerushalayim. George W. Bush, no less than President Obama, refused to enforce the Congressional action.
And the ruling, in any event, was not about Israel per se, but rather about who gets to chart foreign policy, the president or Congress. Should Congress’s and the White House’s positions be reversed at some point in the future, the decision will prove to Israel’s benefit.
It was, though, a timely reminder that the world, including even Israel’s closest friends, is not yet ready to recognize the unbreakable Jewish bond between Yerushalayim — the object of Jewish yearning for millennia — and Klal Yisrael.
A reminder, in other words, that we’re still in galus, jeerers and all.