In 2014, American Jewish leaders might lose control of the Israel debate

Reference: Haaretz

Jan. 1, 2014

By Peter Beinart

… 2014 will be the year that America’s Israel debate begins to pass the organized American Jewish community by.

The first reason is the end of the American-dominated peace process. Despite John Kerry’s best efforts, the most likely scenario is that 2014 will be the year he fails. Even if Kerry manages to convince Israeli and Palestinian leaders to accept a “framework agreement,” which lays out guidelines for a final deal, it’s unlikely he can get it implemented. At the end of the day, Benjamin Netanyahu still leads a party dominated by people opposed to a Palestinian state. …

Kerry himself has said that if “we do not succeed now, we may not get another chance.” He’s right. If he fails, the United States won’t take another shot until it inaugurates a new president in 2017, and maybe not then. In the meantime, the Israeli-Palestinian struggle will move outside Washington as Palestinians take their case to international organizations, college campuses, religious and labor groups and European consumers. And for the organized American Jewish community, that’s a disaster because universities, international organizations and liberal religious groups are exactly the places the American Jewish establishment is weak.

It’s sadly ironic. The organized American Jewish community has spent decades building influence in Washington. But it’s succeeded too well. By making it too politically painful for Obama to push Netanyahu toward a two-state deal, the American Jewish establishment (along with its Christian right allies) is making Washington irrelevant. …

The Palestinians are ready with a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign that shifts the struggle to arenas where the American Jewish establishment lacks influence. In the Russell Senate Office Building, Howard Kohr and Malcolm Hoenlein’s opinions carry weight. In German supermarkets and the Modern Language Association, not so much.

But the decline of the American-led peace process is only one reason 2014 may spell the decline of organized American Jewish influence. The other is Iran. For two decades, AIPAC and its allies have successfully pushed a harder and harder American line against Iran’s nuclear program. In Congress, where a bipartisan group of senators has just introduced new sanctions legislation over White House objections, that hard-line agenda remains popular. But in the country at large, it risks alienating the Americans who will dominate politics in the decades to come.

It’s no secret that young Americans are less unwaveringly “pro-Israel” than their elders. According to a 2013 Pew Research Center poll, while a majority of Americans over 65 say they sympathize primarily with Israel, among Americans under 30 it drops to just over one-in-three, with a plurality of respondents saying they sympathize with both sides. …


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