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Reboot 2014

The abandonment of the Jews

In an article last week that made my jaw drop, the Wall Street Journal reported a profound change in U.S. policy that has the potential to do long-term damage not only to the U.S.-Israel relationship, but to Israel’s very existence.

And in an equally jaw-dropping reaction, nearly every major Jewish organization – ZOA proudly excepted – failed to make a statement condemning this change.

Long-standing U.S. policy and law allows munitions transfers to Israel to go through a bureaucratic Defense Department approval process. Reversing that policy last week, the administration stopped an already approved transfer, castigated Israel for “blindsiding” it by having made the request through routine channels, and instituted an onerous new policy to “scrutinize future transfers at the highest levels.”

In other words, the administration is changing the terms of our military alliance with Israel. Now everything is political. Never mind that the administration’s accusations are inconsistent with the words of its own Defense Department officials, who repeatedly confirmed that the process for the transfer precisely followed existing procedures. This was a routine transfer of munitions that already were stored at a pre-positioned weapons stockpile in Israel.

Never mind that Israel is battling for its life against a terrorist entity that has shot thousands of rockets at Israel’s civilian population centers and diverted international aid money to build a labyrinth of attack tunnels. We would expect the administration to approve any resupply of an ally in the midst of such a war. The fact that it interceded to stop a pre-approved transfer under such circumstances is beyond alarming.

Make no mistake, these actions were taken explicitly to punish Israel for what the administration perceives as a lack of cooperation or, perhaps, obedience – something not required of other allies or aid recipients. The anonymous “senior Obama administration official” last week told the WSJ that the United States has “many, many friends around the world” but the United States is Israel’s “strongest” friend, and that the “notion that they [Israel] are playing the United States, or that they’re manipulating us publicly, completely miscalculates their place in the world.” “Playing us”? “Miscalculates their place”? Sounds like a threat from the bully in my junior high: I’m stronger, so do what I say, or else. These statements make clear the administration’s hostility to Israel. And the resulting action, a power grab from the Defense Department and a slap in the face of Congressional intent, indicates a fundamental change in the nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship – a change that should concern us deeply.

Once again, this administration has shown itself willing to play dirty, to use every administrative power at its disposal to demand acquiescence or extract a price. We saw it last month, with the swift and unprecedented FAA ban on all U.S. flights to and from Israel coincidental to Kerry’s arrival in the region to press for concessions to Hamas. The FAA usually issues warnings or changes flight paths (as it did, for example, in areas of the Ukraine after a commercial jet was shot down); a complete ban is virtually unheard of. The ban took place at the height of Israel’s tourist season, inflicting economic harm on top of reputation and diplomatic damage. This, too, was done to teach Israel a lesson – that the administration expects Israel to obey or pay, and that Israel’s friends in Congress can’t always help.

Given Israel’s unfortunate location in the midst of the world’s most dangerous region, where order is unraveling by the minute, we cannot take its security, or even its existence, for granted. A hostile U.S. administration that will withhold military support, intentionally inflict harm, or force concessions to Israel’s enemies, poses an existential threat to Israel. If the United States stops exercising its Security Council power to block anti-Zionist initiatives (as it has already hinted it might), greater physical and economic harm to Israel, and indeed to Jews everywhere, could result. It is a dangerous situation that will only get worse if nothing is done to stop it now.

Which raises the question: Where are the large national Jewish organizations that should be condemning this serious diversion from existing policy? As of this writing, among major Jewish organizations, only the Zionist Organization of America has publicly condemned the recent policy changes. Why aren’t more Jewish leaders calling out the administration on its bullying and betrayal? Will American Jews again stay silent while other Jews pay the price?

In “The Abandonment of the Jews,” David Wyman documents the U.S. policies that purposefully obstructed the rescue of European Jews from the Holocaust, and the concurrent failure of the American Jewish community to press for policy changes that could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives without impeding the war effort.

While the mass murder of Jews during the Gaza war has been more attempted than successful, Hamas is no less genocidal than Hitler in its intent or efforts. Yet the White House actions directly harm Israel’s ability to fight this scourge. It is yet to be seen whether the American Jewish community will speak out against these policies, or whether we will bear the guilt of previous generations for failing to speak up before it is once again too late.

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