The incoming U.S. President Joe Biden has named a number of Jews to his future cabinet and other senior positions. One regularly hears from American Jews how proud they are that such achievements are possible. The same remark about such pride is heard from time to time when the number of Jews elected to Congress represents a far higher percentage than that of Jews in the US population.
Yet a much more critical look at this issue is necessary. Are such appointments of Jews in high-ranking political positions by nature positive? Are they necessarily good for the Jews at large?
As the creative future of the Jewish people largely depends on the wellbeing of Israel, one should focus on what these appointments mean for the Jewish state. Contrary to naive opinions, there is no general answer to these questions other than that it largely depends on the attitude of the Jewish person concerned.
Looking back, one of the most famous American Jewish cabinet members was Henry Kissinger, the first and perhaps most powerful Jewish secretary of State. Former Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, mentioned that Kissinger infamously said: "It would be best if Israel got bloodied during the Yom Kippur war." He added that Kissinger opposed an arms airlift to Israel during the 'darkest days of the war' and it was President Richard Nixon who ordered it. Scholar Gil Troy has analyzed Kissinger’s ambivalent attitude toward Israel – one might also call it “doublefaced” -- in much detail. He called him a “conflicted Jew.”
There are also other ways of looking at this issue. The current Secretary of State in the Trump administration is Mike Pompeo. Few Jews appointed to that position would have been as favorable to Israel. The incoming Jewish Secretary of State appointee, Anthony Blinken, will have great difficulty in matching Pompeo's help to Israel, if he has an inclination to do so.
Being proud of scientific Nobel Prize winners who are Israelis or Jews is a different matter. They are objectively chosen on their merits. Whatever their political views, they reflect the talent of the Jewish people, even if they do nothing for the Jewish people or Israel. Many of them can be helpful in actions that support Israel, for instance, against Israel boycotters. Yet the latter is true as well for non-Jewish Nobel Prize winners.
Even in very critical situations for Israel there are prominent American Jews who prefer other considerations above showing solidarity with the Jewish State. In an unprecedented address in 2015, Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu asked the U.S. Congress to speak out against U.S President Barack Obama’s proposed JCPOA agreement with Iran. History has justified Netanyahu. The agreement Obama concluded was extremely dangerous for Israel. Since then, several important dangerous aspects of the JCPOA have been exposed. One of these was that the agreement indirectly facilitated Iranian terrorism expansion in the Middle East.
When Netanyahu addressed Congress, over 50 Democrats were absent. This included a number of Jews. Among the eight senators who didn't attend was Bernie Sanders, a systematic looker away from Palestinian murderous intentions and death culture. Instead, he promotes so-called Palestinian dignity.
Other Jewish senators not attending were Brian Schatz and Al Franken. Among Congress members a number of Jewish names stood out such as Steve Cohen, Jan Schakowsky and John Yarmuth.
Several Jews have been involved in the Palestine-Israel conflict. Some have negative attitudes toward Israel. One example among others is Martin Indyk, twice US ambassador to Israel. Under Foreign Secretary John Kerry, Indyk was the US special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in 2013 and 2014. Yet it is too easy to claim that the professional Indyk failed whereas the amateur Jared Kushner broke a decades long deadlock in the Middle East. Indyk had his own opinions.
According to strong rumors, Martin Indyk blamed Israel for the failure of the peace talks due to its settlement policies.
Indyk worked for the highly problematic Obama administration. In 2010 Isi Leibler, a former top leader of Australian Jewry, called Indyk—who grew up in Australia — an “anti-Israeli apologist” in the Jerusalem Post. Former U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron is quoted as saying that Obama was the most pro-Palestinian and pro-Arab U.S. president ever.
Indyk’s statements at the time show that he made a major effort to present the Palestinian Arab attitude as much more favorable than it was in reality. According to strong rumors, Indyk blamed Israel for the failure of the peace talks due to its settlement policies. Rumors identified an anonymous source in an article in Yediot Aharanot by Nachum Barnea in which Israel was blamed for the failure of the peace talks.
At that time Israeli governments had already made two far going peace proposals. These were made by Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert. Both were rejected by the Palestinians, respectively by Yasser Arafat and Abbas. Thus, blaming the failure of the peace negotiations on Israel and its settlement policies is far from the truth.
Indyk’s position on Israel has been clear for a decade at least. He was a board member of the New Israel Fund (NIF), a position from which he stepped down to become the U.S peace envoy in 2013. He was also a co-patron of its Australian branch. The NIF, according to NGO Monitor, subsidizes organizations that demonize Israel. NGO Monitor President Gerald Steinberg wrote an extremely negative article about Kerry and Indyk regarding their peace negotiations attempt.
Indyk has also spoken in Australia about the important role of the extreme Israeli masochist organization Breaking the Silence which falsely - that has been proven - accuses IDF soldiers of mistreating Palestinian Arabs.. It is – or was --- one of the grantees of the NIF.
It would take several more years the Trump administration showed that it was possible to reach peace agreements for Israel with four Arab states, the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, without a prior agreement with the Palestinians.
Indyk is just one example of a prominent Jew whose attitude towards Israel makes it clear that Jews like him remain far removed from the Palestinian–Israeli conflict, the better it is for Israel and thus for the Jewish people in general.
Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is the emeritus Chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has been a strategic advisor for more than thirty years to some of the Western world’s leading corporations. Among the honors he received was the 2019 International Lion of Juda Award of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research paying tribute to him as the recognized leading international authority on contemporary antisemitism. His main book on the subject is: The War of a Million Cuts The struggle against the delegitimization of Israel and the Jews and the growth of New antisemitism.