How White House Push to Jews Spurred Shift on Syria

Forced Israel Lobby's Hand With Demand for Clear Stand

Push for Action: As Secretary of State John Kerry and Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel pushed Congress with a hawkish message on Syria, aides were calling pro-Israel groups to demand an open message of support.
getty images
Push for Action: As Secretary of State John Kerry and Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel pushed Congress with a hawkish message on Syria, aides were calling pro-Israel groups to demand an open message of support.

By Nathan Guttman

Published September 04, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

The message from the two senior administration officials to Jewish leaders during a large conference call September 3 was clear: The Obama administration, said deputy national security advisors Ben Rhodes and Tony Blinken, believed that congressional approval of military action would send an important message to Iran, Israel’s most feared rival in the region.

“It is very important for us that we achieve a supportive vote in Congress,” said Blinken.

The two officials stopped short of directly calling on the Jewish community to put its weight behind President Obama’s request to authorize the use of military power against Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. But the message was loud and clear, and at the call’s conclusion, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, promised his umbrella group would issue a supportive statement.

But he also cautioned the two advisors: “We don’t want to turn this into an Israel-centric issue.”

Hoenlein asked his fellow Jewish leaders, who had for the most part up to then avoided taking official stands, to back the administration’s congressional resolution authorizing military force in Syria in terms of American national security and not “to tie it to Israel.”

A statement put out by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the powerful pro-Israel lobby, shortly after made this point clear. “Simply put, barbarism on a mass scale must not be given a free pass,” the statement said.

The AIPAC statement emphasized that the lobby’s decision to support the resolution was based on the need to respond to the use of chemical weapons and on the importance of maintaining America’s credibility especially with Iran watching. Israel was not mentioned even once in AIPAC’s statement.

Other Jewish groups also quickly fell in line with the new consensus supporting an attack against Syria. The Anti Defamation League issued its own strong statement of support for Obama and urged Congress to “act swiftly” to approve the resolution. The Republican Jewish coalition, in a rare show of support for the president, issued a call to its members to reach out to their elected officials and “ask them to support the upcoming resolution.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.