A short time ago the leaders of our organizations -- and, specifically, the Conference of Presidents, UJC, JCPA and AIPAC -- were summoned to a Briefing by President Obama on his stance(s) vis-a-vis Israel. Specifically, our donors and communities have been concerned with (or supportive of) the Administration's strong and unconditional opposition to Israeli settlement growth --even so-called natural growth within the current boundaries of development communities which will clearly be annexed to Israel even under a two-state "solution." As a number of articles about this July 12 meeting have pointed out, our "leaders" were, at best, meek and, at worst, obsequious -- in the JTA, At White House, U.S. Jews offer little resistance to Obama policy on settlements; in The Jewish Week, Mild Flak For Obama on Issue of Settlements; in the Forward, Jewish Leaders Give Obama No Push-Back on Settlement Freeze (wherein one of the leaders, unnamed, who apparently thought she/he was on some sort of White House tour, left "glowing"); and Jonathan Tobin's powerful op-ed in the July 19, Jerusalem Post, A pause for serious self-reflection.
Now, I care not a whit what J Street or the American Jewish Committee have to say to our President. I care a whole lot what the leaders of AIPAC, UJC, JACPA and the Conference of Presidents have to say or not say. It's pretty apparent that they have failed to date to even understand their constituencies', their owners', their members' opinions of the stated Administration policies and thrust. That being the case, it must have been a nice visit -- as Kathy Manning recounted in a Briefing -- in her summary of her White House foray. I am certain that the President and his staff noted with amusement that American Jewish leadership are not yet of one voice (and probably never will be) on the issue framed by his stance on settlement growth. But, it was a nice visit -- these leaders appear to have been "dazzled by the light" as one of my friends put it so perfectly.
There was a day when our leaders stood tall. When Shoshana Cardin, then Chair of the Conference of Presidents, told President George H. W. Bush, that his public statements suggesting that the "Jewish lobby" represented a "Fifth Column" in America were unacceptable and bordered on anti-Semitism. (Shoshana surely put it far better and far stronger than I have just related.) But, that was then...and this is now. Where is the debate today? Where is the united front, if one is possible? Who speaks for me and for you? When Jonathan Tobin concludes that it is time to ask leaders who presume to speak for us "...why they are either silent or rationalizing a policy that they know is wrong," it's time to stop and listen.
A little consultation and a little leadership would be nice.