The annual conference of the powerful pro-Israel AIPAC lobby last week disproved the conspiracy theory that claimed the Jews persuaded President Bush to conquer Iraq. According to the same theory, the lobby is now pressing him not to present the road map to put an end to the Israeli occupation of the territories.
On the first day of the AIPAC convention, a man named Gary Bauer took the podium. He reminded the cheering thousands that God gave the Land of Israel to the Jewish people and, therefore, there is an absolute ban on giving it to another people. Bauer is not a member of the National Religious Party, nor of the Likud central committee. He’s not even Jewish. He is a leading preacher from the Christian right in America, one of those who believe the Jews are The Chosen People and one day will even choose the right messiah. Bauer is a leading spokesman for arch-conservative policies, including a total ban on all abortions and favoring government funding for religious schools.
These are the people generating the spiritual energy fueling George Bush’s war on global terrorism. Evangelist Christians from South Carolina paid for the huge billboard on the Ayalon Highway declaring “There’s no land for peace.” TV evangelist Pat Robertson last week reprimanded Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, saying “Who do you think you are, handing Jerusalem over to Arafat?”
With Christian friends like these close to the president’s ear, the right-wing government in Israel does not need Jewish friends to rebuff political initiatives like the road map. But the Jewish activists are not giving up. The religious sources of the values that drive the Christian right are not preventing some Jewish organizations from turning them into a natural ally. Among those organizations are some that only a decade ago were thriving by exposing the anti-Semitic sloganeering in the sermons of some of their newfound friends.
This coming Passover, those Jews will devotedly recite “Next year in Jerusalem rebuilt,” and a few might even do so from one of the hotels in the capital, which have been empty for the last two years. Those same activists joining the crusade against renewal of the political negotiations and against a settlement freeze know what a bloody price Israel is paying for the conflict in the territories. They are familiar with the ominous economic data threatening the social stability of their beloved country. They all understand that by the end of this decade, the Jews will become a minority between the Jordan and Mediterranean.
So what drives these Jewish professionals? A new poll for one of the Jewish organizations shows that their policy does not represent the Jewish street in America. According to this poll, 63 percent of American Jewry supports active involvement by the U.S. administration in the peace process. This could confirm the assessment of one senior Israeli diplomat, who noted that the name Jay Fielder, a young Jewish football player, is much better known to American Jews than that of Malcolm Hoenlein, the eternal executive vice-chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
It is not because, as in Israel, the majority supports left-wing concessions but allows the political leadership to lead right-wing policies. The big difference between the two communities remains that Israeli Jews get blown up in buses, their sons have to guard settlers and their grandchildren can expect to grow up in a binational state or an apartheid regime. If it is difficult for those American Jewish busybodies to push the president and Congress into the cold water of the peace process, presumably one could expect they not try to force the administration to go in the opposite direction. They even have the right to draw fire to the Jews over the Iraq war, but they do not have the right to block even the slightest chance for peace here.
AKIVA ELDAR writes for Ha’aretz.