Shmuely Boteach: Would a Jewish President be Good for Israel?

J4JP New Senator Lieberman Series - January 16, 2003

J4JP Preface:

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 Palestinian terrorists.

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 havoc.

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 abusive husband.

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 and indefensible.

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 ammunition.

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 equals.

The writer, a rabbi and best-selling author, hosts a daily radio show syndicated across the United States on the Talk America radio network.

See Also: