Haaretz (Editorial)
April 4, 2008 - 6:30pm

The president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, has called for non-cooperation with the Christian Zionists, a movement of millions of Americans who ardently support Israel.

Yoffie represents a movement that supports Israel for very different reasons from those of the Christian Zionists, who identify largely with the most right-wing sectors of Israeli society.

His call on Wednesday reawakens the controversy over Israel's practical approach toward its supporters in the United States.

The first concern pertains to the involvement of one country's citizens in the policy of another. Americans, including those who could come to Israel and become Israeli citizens under the Law of Return but haven not chosen to do so, are trying to influence decisions in Jerusalem. Is it desirable for world Jewry to support Israeli government policy, erroneous as it may be, or to encourage some political party or other, although its supporters do not live in Israel? The answer is not simple.

This problem also exists regarding Israelis' involvement in American policy. Israelis, inside and outside the government, are trying to influence decisions in Washington. It's a troublesome involvement, even if difficult to avoid completely in a world without barriers.

A second problem is Israel's involvement in American policy. Israel and its supporters are often accused, not always justifiably, of prodding American statesmen to act on behalf of Israeli interests, even when they are not identical to American interests. The invasion of Iraq is an outstanding example. So is selling American arms to Islamic states.

Israel could find itself embroiled in internal American controversies - for example, when opponents of abortion ask for Israel's aid in Congress in exchange for their help in matters important to Israel. Such involvement brings the religious American right closer to Israel, but drives the liberals away.

Most important is the third obstacle. Are Americans who see themselves as friends doing Israel a favor by supporting even its faulty policies and urging the administration and Congress to support them? This is an extension of President Lyndon Johnson's question to then-prime minister Levi Eshkol after the Six-Day War, the occupation of the territories and the Security Council's adoption of Resolution 242. LBJ asked: What kind of Israel do you want?

Perhaps Eshkol knew the answer, but for the past 40 years Israel's governments have been struggling to formulate it to themselves and to the world. Consequently, even in the midst of peace talks involving concessions, less compromising Israeli officials, not always outside the government, are busy recruiting Americans to foil conciliation.

Instead of recruiting supporters for its mistakes, Israel should be bolstering the support for its existence against those who believe that it was established in error, that it is temporary or should not necessarily be Jewish.


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