JERUSALEM – Left-wing and progressive groups are campaigning to demonize Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after his stunning comeback in last month’s elections, according to some experts in the Middle East’s only democracy.
Amid Netanyahu’s efforts to cobble together a complex coalition of religious, conservative and ultranationalist parties, a leftist US organization, J Street, went on the offensive this week.
“The potential for specific actions that could be taken from this [Israeli] government, these are times when the relationship between most Jewish Americans and the state of Israel really begins to fray,” J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami told the Associated Press.
On Dec. 1, J Street posted an announcement on its website that “the United States must act now to counter extremist Israeli officials and political moves.” J Street describes itself on its website as a “pro-Israel” organization.
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In that same Associated Press report, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said the composition of the incoming coalition included some of the “most extreme voices in Israeli politics.” As the leader of what the PA called the largest Jewish group in the United States, Jacobs continued: “What the trajectory will be of a new Israeli government with such voices in such key leadership roles is cause for deep, deep worry”.
Caroline Glick, an American-born Israeli columnist and author, told Fox News Digital that J Street “is trying to cause a crisis by spreading lies. J Street is not a pro-Israel organization. They support the Iranian regime.”
Glick, the author of “The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East,” said that “J Street has very cordial relations with the Biden administration, and that’s baffling.”
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken addressed the J Street National Conference on December 4.
“J Street’s enduring commitment … continues to inform our thinking,” Blinken said, adding that J Street is an “extraordinary organization.”
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J Street and the Biden administration support the controversial Iranian nuclear deal, which the Israeli government vehemently opposes.
Israel argues that the nuclear deal imposes only temporary limitations on the Islamic Republic’s right to build a nuclear weapon and funnels hundreds of billions of dollars into Tehran’s coffers.
Iran’s nuclear weapons program is an existential threat to the Jewish state.
Blinken told J Street in a recent speech that the US wants the Iranian regime to rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name of the Iran nuclear deal and dismissed the “maximum pressure” campaign of the previous administration against the Islamic theocratic state.
Netanyahu argues that all leverage, including a genuine military option, is being applied to stop Iran’s rush to build an atomic bomb.
Blinken, in an oblique reference to some of the Israeli firebrands who are supposed to be part of Netanyahu’s cabinet, said: “We will evaluate the [Israeli] government by the policies it pursues rather than by individual personalities”.
Traditionally, Israeli governments have shunned J Street and its president due to their alleged anti-Israel policies.
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The main pro-Israel organization in the United States, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) tweeted it bluntly “J Street is many things, but it’s not pro-Israel.”
Glick said that progressives in the US are fueling disinformation against Netanyahu that is “nearly identical to the campaign progressives are waging against parents who oppose indoctrination of students on school boards.” You said the “awakening ideology” that permeates many US schools is “un-American.”
Glick argued that the new conceptual framework for understanding Israel’s day-to-day assaults on legitimacy is “demonization,” and it is “the new fig leaf for adopting anti-Israel policies because the peace process is dead.”
The peace process between Israel and the Palestinians over the disputed West Bank also known as Judea and Samaria has reached a dead end for many Israelis.
Glick criticized J Street and two elites in Washington, DC’s foreign policy establishment, who wrote a Washington Post commentary urging sanctions on Israel.
“They hate Israel,” Glick said. “They want to damage ties between Israel and the United States. And this undermines America’s core interests. Israel is the United States’ staunchest ally.”
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Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, told Fox News Digital, “I think J Street doesn’t speak for the majority of American Jews on this issue. The best way Americans can helping expand the Abraham Accords to include Palestinians means putting pressure on the Palestinian Authority to curb its corruption, stop its relentless anti-Semitism, and end its policies of paying to kill Jews.”
The Trump administration negotiated the historic normalization deals – the Abraham Accords – between Israel and four Sunni Arab countries (the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan).
The Palestinian Authority pays terrorists and families of terrorists who have attacked and killed Israelis. Critics argue that Palestinian policy promotes terrorism.
Fox News Digital has asked the US State Department to respond to criticisms Glick and Cooper leveled against J Street.
“Just as our predecessors have done, this administration regularly engages with Jewish American and Diaspora groups to underscore our unwavering commitment and partnership with Israel, which has never been stronger,” the department said.
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“Israel is America’s reliable friend and ally, not its 51st state,” Cooper said. “It is a turbulent democracy whose electorate in the last election voted for parties that created a coalition that included Israeli Arab parties. Now, that same electorate has voted for parties that are to the right of center and smaller parties that include extremists furious about the ‘relentless terrorism and some with extremist views that are outside the mainstream of Israeli society.”
Shlomit Ravitzky Tur-Paz, director of the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center for Shared Society at the Israel Democracy Institute, told Fox News Digital: “Israel is both a Jewish and a democratic country, and new policies that touch on fundamental characteristics and values shared could create tensions.
“A possible point of conflict between competing worldviews could be found in two extreme examples. The proposed changes in the Ministry of Education raise the question of the place of diversity: Israeli children will be given different options on how to be Jewish and will be capable of embracing different relationships with the Jewish tradition, or will the Orthodox view on these be the only possibility? Another example touches on the path to becoming a Jew”.
He added that a thorny issue will center on whether a new right-wing government “will continue to recognize conservative reform and conversion as valid for confirming Judaism – and thus automatic Israeli citizenship – according to the interior ministry, even if not from the rabbinate.”
Progressive critics of Netanyahu’s coalition partners say there is an anti-LGBTQ streak within party leader Noam because he wants to ban the gay parade in Jerusalem.
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Netanyahu has flatly rejected efforts to reduce his pro-LGBTQ record. Israeli media reported that he said “there will be no harm to pride parades or the status quo on LGBTQ rights.”
Glick has criticized some groups for accusing Israel’s right to be anti-gay.
“You don’t see gay people hanged on the streets of Tel Aviv, but a gay person has just been killed by Palestinians,” Glick said.
Fox News Digital called and sent several press questions to J Street.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.