Olmert cant speak for U.S. Jews

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One of the canards anti-Semites throw at Jews is the accusation of dual loyalty: “How,” they ask, “can Jews feel loyalty to America if they are simultaneously loyal to Israel?”

We intuitively comprehend the baselessness of the charge. But it doesn’t help when no less than the prime minister of Israel feeds into that very perception.

That is precisely what happened when Ehud Olmert addressed the annual AIPAC convention earlier this week.

The prime minister in a satellite broadcast told the assembly, “Those who are concerned for Israel’s security, for the security of the Gulf States and for the stability of the entire Middle East should recognize the need for American success in Iraq and responsible exit.”

The suggestion being, if U.S. Jews really want to support Israel, they need to get behind this war.

Although some Jews do support the Iraq war, polls show Jews are among the most strongly opposed. Surely Olmert knows this. 

While finding a military solution to Iraq’s civil war may be important to Olmert, American Jews don’t march in lockstep with the pronouncements of Israeli government officials. Neither do many Israelis, for that matter.

In fact, a prominent Israeli newspaper columnist wasted no time in attacking Olmert’s comments to AIPAC.

Ha’aretz columnist Bradley Burston noted this week how Olmert fed the perception that Israel is the driving force behind the war in Iraq.

Burston also worried that Olmert’s speech might revive memories of the neo-con architects of the war, several of whom — Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith — happen to be Jewish. Calling the Iraq conflict a Jewish/Israeli war is an unfair broad-bush characterization, one Israel should even not have to bother disproving.

Supporting Israel is a nonpartisan issue for America’s Jews. Other than a tiny fringe of Jews on the extreme left and religious right, of course we stand with Israel. Our position on the war has no bearing where Israel is concerned.

How this tragic war ultimately plays out is anyone’s guess. No one wants to see any further chaos and bloodshed. No one wants to see Israel’s security threatened.

But as Americans, many of us are unhappy about this needless war without end.  

As prime minister, Olmert should always state what he feels is best for Israel. That doesn’t mean he knows what’s best for us — or that we need to agree with him on every issue.