More proof, if more proof were needed, that there is a crisis in U.S.-Israel relations, and that the crisis goes deeper than simply the dysfunctional personal relationship between Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government and the Obama administration (or between their colorful staffs): A lead editorial in The New York Jewish Week, the flagship American Jewish newspaper, center to center-right in orientation, with many thousands of Orthodox Jews among its readers and an ardently pro-Israel editorial line, bluntly asks whether the Israeli government has become unmoored from reality.
The editorial, “Bibi Takes on the World,” takes note of the recent snub by top American officials of the Israeli defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon (a snub prompted by Ya’alon’s earlier insults directed at Secretary of State John Kerry), and of the Netanyahu government’s announcement that it would build more than 1,000 new housing units in parts of Jerusalem captured by Israel in 1967—“fully aware,” the editorial reads, “of the negative response it would receive in America and in the international community.”
The editorial continues:
(T)he State Department (called) the plans “incompatible with the pursuit of peace.” A European Union spokeswoman went further, asserting that the move “once again” calls into question Israel’s commitment “to a negotiated solution with the Palestinians.” She also warned that “the future development of relations between the EU and Israel will depend” on Jerusalem’s “engagement towards a lasting peace based on a two-state solution.”
Netanyahu responded by saying that Israel will “continue to build in our eternal capital,” adding: “I heard the claim that our building in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem makes peace more distant, but it is the criticism itself that makes peace more distant.” He said the criticism feeds the Palestinians’ false hopes and is “detached from reality.”
And then The New York Jewish Week drops the hammer:
But it’s fair to ask just who is more detached from reality these days, the president of the U.S. and leader of the free world, or the leader of a small country almost totally dependent on American support? (It’s not so much the $3 billion a year in U.S. aid that counts as much as its support at the UN and in countless other ways that would be felt should the relationship continue to erode.)
When future historians write about this period in U.S.-Israel relations, this editorial will warrant serious mention. The unease felt by some American Jews about Israel’s direction is moving into the mainstream. Over the past few months, I’ve spoken with lay leaders of many of the largest Jewish organizations (organizations that would very much prefer not to be affiliated with such left-wing outfits as J Street), and the question they ask is this: Just what is Bibi doing? If American Jews are forced to choose between their liberal values (and most American Jews are liberal) and support for a Jewish state that seems to be growing increasingly illiberal, these leaders say that Israel—and not the Democratic Party—will be the one to suffer.