26 May 2024

Times of Israel Op-Ed: Through the Pro-Israel Looking-Glass

Times of IsraelPublished in The Times of Israel
on 15 July 2015

Can you make “pro-Israel” mean pro-Iran deal?

“What a stunning historic mistake!” — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Likud Party Chairman

“This is a bad agreement for Israel’s security both now and in the future.” — Isaac Herzog, Labor Party Chairman and Head of the Opposition

“We thought the deal would be bad, it is even worse.  It is a bad day for the Jews, it is a bad day for Israel, and it is a black day for the world.” — Yair Lapid, Yesh Atid Party Chairman (Opposition)

“…this day will be remembered as a black day in the history of the free world.” — Naftali Bennett, Bayit Yehudi Party Chairman

“The agreement with Iran will be remembered in history in the same line with the Munich Agreement and the agreement with North Korea.” — Avigdor Liberman, Yisrael Beytenu Party Chairman (Opposition)

Pro-Israel. To most who self-identify as such, it means to be supportive of Israel, the Jewish state. Clearly, there is and should be toleration for differences in what that means, and the pro-Israel tent should be made as wide as possible. However, as important as it is to include as many as feasible in the pro-Israel camp, it is just as important to define what are the borders of that camp.

The quotes which open this piece are from the party leaders — coalition and opposition — who, without conditioning or wavering, reject the Iran Deal. In a political culture infamous for its fractiousness, this near unanimity cannot be overstated. Not even considering the other party leaders (such as Shas, Kulanu, and United Torah Judaism), which likely also share the assessment but have not spoken publicly, the parties whose chairmen have already spoken out publicly and powerfully against the deal hold 79 seats, a whopping two-thirds of Israel’s 120-seat parliament.

Over in the United States, however, J Street is “welcoming” the agreement and according to J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami will “help lead [the] fight to support” the deal. This would be less of a contradiction if J Street did not bill itself as the “political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.”

When opposition to the deal is cross-party, brings together leading factions in the coalition and opposition, and is pervasive across Israeli society, how can an organizational leader and an organization billing itself as “pro-Israel” not only come out in support of the deal but promise to fight for it? How can J Street reconcile being in favor of an Iran deal despite wall-to-wall condemnation by Israeli politicians — the individuals elected just four months ago by the Israeli public to represent them — and its claim of being “pro-Israel”?

In Through the Looking-Glass, sequel to the classic Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll sends Alice to a fantastical world that challenges her understanding, among other things, of even the role and meaning of words.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory,’” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!’”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument,’” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.”

Alice’s question is what J Street and Jeremy Ben-Ami need to reflect on.  Can you make “pro-Israel” mean pro-Iran deal?  If “pro-Israel” means “pro-Iran deal,” then we have truly crossed through the looking-glass.

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