How Not To Win Friends: Hug the Right, Alienate the Left, Snub the Jews

Bibi Netanyahu is due in Washington next week to address the annual AIPAC Policy Conference. Nahum Barnea of Yediot Ahronot, the lead political commentator at Israel’s largest-circulation newspaper and widely considered the dean of Israeli journalism, has some advice for him. If you’re relying on the Jewish right as your main base of support in the United States, you’re walking on thin ice. It’s a bad bet.

It’s something you don’t hear much from Israelis, though it’s gaining currency.

Here’s some of what Barnea has to say:

(For the record, Barnea is off in claiming that “most” of the “wealthy individuals on stage” at AIPAC are major Republican donors. It’s more balanced than that. But it’s a fact that the passion on the Jewish right combined with the lassitude on the center-left–see under “passing health care reform”–leaves many casual observers under the impression that those folks are mostly Republicans. Which is the larger point he’s trying to make.)

It’s a serious problem Barnea is addressing. The right represents a small minority of Jews in America. The more you allow Israel to be identified with the right in the American public mind, the more you will alienate the liberals and moderates who make up the great majority of American Jews. For that matter, Democrats are a big chunk of the American body politic. If you make Israel a partisan cause of the right, you’re virtually inviting liberals and the left to take up the challenge and move away from Israel. Most haven’t yet, but the process is already visible. That doesn’t serve Israeli interests; it only narrows Israel’s support base.

Barnea’s bottom line, if you read the whole article (recommended), is the Bibi should skip AIPAC and stay home so he doesn’t cause more trouble. I don’t know if he’s serious or not, but it’s obviously not going to happen On the other hand, Bibi is capable of addressing a crowd and speaking in moderate tones. The fire and brimstone stuff stirs up crowds and wins applause, but it’s a terrible strategy for Israel these days. You can’t prevent the left from coming back to power every so often. But you work to develop civil relationships and support and avoid alienating them.

Written by

J.J. Goldberg

J.J. Goldberg

Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).

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How Not To Win Friends: Hug the Right, Alienate the Left, Snub the Jews

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