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Jewish Journal

This week in power: RJC, Ron Paul, Panetta, Israeli ad

by Danny Groner

December 8, 2011 | 4:25 am

A roundup of the most talked about political and global stories in the Jewish world this week:

GOP candidates on Israel
Republican presidential hopefuls gave speeches in front of the Republican Jewish Coalition during which time each of them tried to show themselves as the best candidate in support of Israel. They all stressed the importance of preventing Iran from getting ahold of a nuclear weapon, and some of them outlined how Obama isn’t doing enough for the Jewish people. Mitt Romney is the presumed frontrunner, and he’s doing well so far with the Jewish vote, said Timothy Stanley at The Atlantic. “It’s inevitable that Romney’s foreign policy views should win him some fans among Jewish Republicans, but he also draws a surprising level support among Jewish voters in general when compared to his Republican competitors.” But some warn not to count Obama out just yet.

Ron Paul left out
One candidate missing from Wednesday’s gathering was Rep. Ron Paul after he was left off the docket. “That may be outside the mainstream, but the whole idea of an organization of Jewish Republicans worrying about the mainstream strikes me as a bit contradictory,” said Seth Lipsky in The New York Sun. “Wouldn’t the debate, both within the Jewish community and without, be richer were these kinds of views at least brought up for discussion?” And this isn’t really about Paul’s views at all, warned Matt Welch at Reason. “this seems to me more of an attempt to draw boundaries around acceptable policy discourse than any active concern that President Dr. Ron Paul would be actively anti-Israel or anti-Semitic.”  Others agreed: “This is basically a case of not liking a candidate’s stand and then excluding him,” said Joe Gandelman at The Moderate Voice. But some wonder if we would be better served having invited Paul to participate. Jeffrey Lord at The American Spectator argued, “Ron Paul should be given the chance to fairly explain his views in the Republican Jewish forum—not deliberately excluded.”

An ambassador’s controversial comments
Howard Gutman, the U.S.ambassador to Belgium, came under fire last week after he said that a form of “new” anti-Semitism has come out of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. “The sense among those who have lambasted Mr Gutman is that to draw a distinction between different varieties of anti-Semitism or to suggest that one variety might be caused or exacerbated by real-world political events is in some way to excuse it,” explained an Economist blogger. “Let us say it loudly and clearly that Israel is not to blame for antisemitism,” said Dr. Michael Berenbeum in the Jewish Journal, “antisemites are to blame for antisemitism.” What should happen to Gutman? “The reason why Gutman isn’t losing his job is because his opinion is widely held in this administration and by a president who sees Israel as more of a burden than an ally,” said Jonathan S. Tobin at Commentary. “Though Republicans rightly condemned Gutman’s views today, they are broadly consonant with Obama’s three years of picking fights with Israel and seeking to pressure it,”

Panetta’s pressure
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta encouraged Israel last week to try to patch things up with Turkey, Egypt, and others in the Middle East, and to avoid isolation. “Israel can reach out and mend fences with those who share an interest in regional stability — countries like Turkey and Egypt, as well as Jordan,” he said. “This is not impossible. If the gestures are rebuked, the world will see those rebukes for what they are. And that is exactly why Israel should pursue them.” Is that the President’s stance? “It is true that the Obama administration has provided Israel with significant military resources, including bunker busting bombs. But at the same time it has undercut Israel at every turn short of complete capitulation to the worldwide anti-Israel crusade,” said William A. Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. It’s not too late to turn back from this position, said Abe Foxman at the Algemeiner. “These perceptions can add fuel to the fire of an already raging region. It is urgent that the White House make clear that the secretary’s remarks do not represent the views and position of the administration.”

Israel ads vs. America
A series of Israeli ads sanctioned by the Israeli government upset a lot of American Jews last week with implications that American culture was penetrating its way into Israeli society, and non-natives should be presumed as outsiders. “The one true existential threat to Israel is loss of U.S. support — which will never happen, but still,” said The New York Times’ Roger Cohen. They need them. And Israeli shouldn’t take America for granted, warned Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg: “American Jews hold Israel to a very high standard as well, and if Israel ceases to be a free and open country governed by the rule of law, American Jewish support for Israel will dissipate, with dramatic and unpleasant consequences.” It’s ads likes these that leave more people “increasingly alienated and increasingly defeated in our efforts to retain some measure of long-term identification with Israel,” said an Economist blogger. This episode should awaken us to growing differences and lead us back in the right direction, said Gary Rosenblatt in The Jewish Week.

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