I’ve been waiting years for this to happen. Barack Obama for the first time in his administration met with the leaders of fourteen Jewish organizations including Peace Now, J Street and Israeli Policy Forum in order to reassure American Jewish leaders that his settlement freeze policy was ultimately “good for Israel.” When it came time to take questions, the most hostile ones came from Malcolm Hoenlein, resident nyetnik of the Conference of Presidents. Here’s how the N.Y. Times described the encounter:
…Some of the toughest questioning of Mr. Obama came from Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations…Mr. Hoenlein told the president that diplomatic progress in the Middle East has traditionally occurred when there is “no light” between the positions of the United States and Israel. But Mr. Obama pushed back, citing the administration of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
“He said, ‘I disagree,’ ‘’ said Marla Gilson, director of the Washington action office of Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization. “He said, ‘For eight years, there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished.’
For far too long Hoenlein’s narischkeit has passed for commonly accepted pro-Israel wisdom in our community. Finally, finally a president is pushing back. Malcom Hoenlein no longer owns the discourse. There Shehecheyanu prayer says: “Thank God who has kept me alive and allowed me to reach this day.” Amen to that.
It’s interesting that Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid’s report of the meeting listed the attendees and included no mention of the Jewish peace groups I listed above. This speaks volumes for certain elements of the establishment Jewish press (or at least reporters like Ravid) who haven’t yet rolled over and heard the news that the old days of hard-right pro-Israel groups representing the “entire” Jewish people are over. There are a few new kids on the block. Obama himself knows and understands this, which is why he invited them. Some journalists are slow to catch on.