The U.S. Jewish community has been shifting uneasily amid increased pressure by President Barack Obama on Israel.
Over the last few months, supporters of the Obama administration have been questioning the loyalty of American Jews amid U.S. pressure on Israel to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Jerusalem. In Congress, American Jews who support U.S. sanctions on Iran have been portrayed as disloyal war-mongers.
“The Obama administration’s trashing of anyone expressing doubts about the deal struck last November with the Iranian regime over its nuclear program contains, of course, an Israeli dimension,” Ben Cohen, an analyst for the Jewish Institute for National Security, said.
On Jan. 23, Israel’s state radio quoted a U.S. official as complaining that Israel was encouraging American Jewish opposition to administration policies. The unnamed official cited what he termed disappointment by Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry with “Jewish activism in Congress.”
“Over the last few days, Israeli diplomats have warned of this trend, saying that Israel was seen as encouraging the American Jewish discourse, which represents only government views,” the radio said.
The report came amid warnings by American Jewish leaders of rising anti-Semitism that targeted Jewish neighborhood and students. A diplomatic source said most American Jewish leaders relayed concerns to the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu that any crisis between Washington and Jerusalem could endanger the U.S. Jewish community.
“The fears include anything from a crackdown by the IRS [Internal Revenue Service], a purge of those seen as pro-Israel to organized attacks on Jewish neighborhoods fueled by black Muslim community leaders who share Obama’s agenda,” the source said.
The areas of friction between Washington and Jerusalem center on U.S. plans to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank as well as reconcile with Iran. In January 2014, Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon was quoted as complaining over the nearly biweekly visits by Kerry to pressure Israel to agree to a Palestinian state.
“The only thing that can save us is for John Kerry to win his Nobel Prize and leave us alone,” Ya’alon, who did not deny the remarks, was reported as saying.
The administration has not directly attacked Israel or American Jews for opposition to Iran or a Palestinian state. Instead, Obama allies in Congress and in the think tank community, many of them Jewish, have warned that Israel and its supporters were leading the world to war through legislation that would bolster U.S. sanctions on Iran. So far, 59 out of 100 U.S. senators registered support for the legislation.
“We cannot let Israel determine when and where the United States goes to war,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said.
Ms. Feinstein’s statement was said to have stunned American Jewish organizations, already concerned over rising anti-Semitism that included the so-called “knockout” game in which Jews were attacked in several cities. Some of the Jewish leaders said the administration has ignored anti-Semitic incidents, attributing them to grassroots opposition to Israel.
“Her [Ms. Feinstein] statement plays to the anti-Semitic stereotype that the Jewish lobby manipulates America into doing Israel’s bidding to the detriment of U.S. interests,” Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said.
Congressional sources said the administration has targeted the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, deemed a leading lobby in Washington. They said AIPAC was under intense White House pressure to end support for the Senate bill that stipulated additional sanctions on Teheran. “I don’t know where AIPAC is,” Senate Armed Services chairman Sen. Carl Levin said. “I haven’t talked to anybody.”