Shmuely Boteach: Would a Jewish President be Good for Israel?
J4JP New Senator Lieberman Series - January 16, 2003
Driven by his own political agenda and hiding behind a veil of "secrecy" Senator Joseph Lieberman continues to obstruct justice for Jonathan Pollard. He refuses to meet with Pollard's representatives, or to be briefed on Pollard's new legal case which documents an overwhelming miscarriage of justice. He has been cited by US officials as a key stumbling block to securing the release of Jonathan Pollard. J4JP presents a series of articles that shed light on the moral
character of a man who has just declared his intention to run for the highest office in the land, President of the United States. The following article by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, an author and talk show host, was written prior to Lieberman's formal announcement of his candidacy.
Would a Jewish President be Good for Israel?
Shmuley Boteach - Jerusalem Post - December 30, 2002
As a Jewish boy growing up in Los Angeles, I can still remember my
mother telling me that there would never be a Jewish president. America
still wasn't ready for it. So you can imagine the surprise, shock, and
euphoria I experienced, along with so many other American Jews, when Al
Gore announced that he had chosen Joseph Lieberman as his
vice-presidential running mate. All across the land editorials praised the
breakthrough of this seemingly impenetrable barrier. I was part of the
jubilation, giddily publishing an op-ed praising the choice, and walked on
air in the days that followed. The fact that Lieberman was not just a Jew
but an observant one at that, and a man of impeccable moral character,
added to the sense of triumph.
It wasn't long before we all came down to earth. Just days after the
announcement, Senator Lieberman, who had previously led the charge in
Congress to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, sat down with
Larry King for a nationally televised interview and suddenly reversed his
position, saying the time was not ripe. That initial alarm was followed by
some others, most notably his remark about having "respect" for Minister
Louis Farrakhan, even though, in response, Farrakhan asserted, just days
later on NBC's Meet the Press, that Lieberman has dual loyalties and
charged that Jews have a "master-slave" relationship with blacks.
But Lieberman's position on Farrakhan is the least of my concerns. It
is his position on Israel that continues to disturb me, now that he is
actively seeking the presidency.
Would a Jewish president be an unmitigated blessing? Is this what
American Jewry most needs at this time? Since our chief foreign-policy
consideration is Israel, especially when it is fighting a war to the death
against terrorism, wouldn't an American Jewish president have to bend over
backward to show that he doesn't show Israel favoritism? It is sad that
Lieberman continues to play that sorry game.
Just days ago, while touring the West Bank, Lieberman was quoted as
saying, "There are desperate humanitarian conditions here." Of course
there are. We all know that. The suffering of the Palestinian people is
horrible. But the fault lies squarely in the hands of the Palestinians who
have repeatedly broken their Oslo agreements and resorted to violence.
Would Lieberman have gone to Berlin in June 1945 and similarly decried
the horrible humanitarian conditions, after years of Allied bombing,
without squarely laying the blame at the feet of the Nazi government? No
one told the Germans to follow Hitler into the inhuman abyss. They did so
of their own volition. And the Palestinians have followed Yasser Arafat
into the same black hole.
But what I found most troubling was Lieberman's criticism of the Bush
administration's Mideast policies, contrasting them with the "tremendous
regard" he held for the devotion former president Bill Clinton showed for
creating peace in the Middle East, and for the "enormous effort" he put
into trying to solve the conflict.
Let us be clear. For all his good intentions, and for all his genuine
love for Israel and the Jewish people, Clinton brought incalculable, even
irreparable harm to the Jewish state. His misguided meddling, which
involved, among other outrages, inviting Arafat to the White House more
than any other world leader, pushed Israel into unending concessions with
a partner who was never accepting of Israel's existence. The result, as we
now know, is thousands of Israeli civilians murdered and maimed by
Rather than praise Clinton's disastrous efforts, one would think that
Lieberman would be scratching his head and wondering how a man who
invested so much in the Middle East ultimately managed to wreak such
THE ONLY time I ever met Clinton face to face was in November 2000,
when he was already a lame-duck president with five weeks left in office.
I was in a receiving line, with one of the world's most distinguished
Jewish personalities ahead of me.
Clinton recognized him, and they embraced. I overhead their
conversation, as Clinton said to him, "I'm pretty sure we'll have a final
peace deal in Israel before I leave office." This while incessant terror
attacks shook Israel daily. My Jewish friend turned to me incredulously
and said, "A fine man, but on this he's a meshuggener." And still, until
the very end, Clinton tried to close his deal.
The harm that Clinton brought to Israel is best understood through the
analogy of an obsessive mother who will do anything to marry off her
daughter. In Clinton's eyes, Israel was better off married to an imperfect
partner than left isolated and alone in the Middle East.
He was going to force a marriage between the Israelis and the
Palestinians no matter how much hatred was taught about Israel in the
Palestinian schools, no matter how many times Arafat praised suicide
bombers as martyrs, and no matter how much evidence there was linking
Arafat directly to terror against Israel. Clinton was hell-bent on wedding
bells, even if there were some blood stains on the wedding canopy. Better
Israel have a bad peace than a continued state of war. In his own
matriarchal way, he just wanted his daughter to be happy, even with an
As a Jew, I feel like a daughter stuck in that awful marriage. Almost
daily, I read stories of my Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel being
blown to smithereens. Of course, the abusive husband is never held
accountable by the world community, but rather the wife who provoked him.
But Clinton shut his eyes to all the beatings and simply pushed ahead for
this horrible marriage to take place.
What he never learned was that even divorce is better than to be
divorced from reality.
I am a man who believes in peace, just as I am a man who believes in
marriage. But as a counselor, I would never pressure a woman to return to
a man who repeatedly assaulted her, and Clinton pushing a peace on Israel
with a partner that repeatedly murdered innocent civilians was depraved
In assessing his Middle Eastern legacy, we may judge Clinton on two
things - his intentions and his actions. While his intentions may have
been honorable, his actions were horrible. Compare Clinton, best friend of
the Jews, who pursued a neutral policy on Israel, to Richard Nixon, a man
who made many crude and loathsome anti-Semitic comments.
Yet, when Israel was on the verge of annihilation during the Yom Kippur
War in 1973, Nixon forced the military airlift that helped save Israel.
Against the counsel of many of his advisers who urged neutrality, he
came down resolutely on Israel's side and, at the height of the airlift,
every nine minutes an American supply plane was landing with much-needed
As an American Jew, I prefer a president who is a closet anti-Semite
like Nixon but who helps Israel in its hour of need to a Jew-lover like
Clinton who takes down Israel's defenses, making it vulnerable to attack.
And I would also prefer a born-again Christian president like George W.
Bush, who has shown phenomenal support for Israel and exceptional moral
clarity on the war against terror, than a Jewish president who continues
the offensive lie that Israel and the Palestinian Authority are moral
The writer, a rabbi and best-selling author, hosts a daily radio show syndicated across the United States on the Talk America radio network.