Dear Mr. President:
I write to respond to your recent comments to the Republican Jewish Coalition identifying Prime Minister Netanyahu as “your Prime Minister”.
These words might have been said purposefully or they might have been an unintended slip of the tongue. Whichever they were, they demand a response.
Let me tell you something about myself to provide context.
I am an observant Jew, a rabbi, who was born and raised in this country. I am a proud American and cherish the freedoms that this nation has offered me. While I am deeply concerned about the proliferation of anti-Semitic actions and rhetoric in the United States, I continue to feel safe here to express my Jewish identity through my actions and words.
I love and support the State of Israel. I have visited Israel 13 times, the majority of those visits came while leading groups on trips. I have brought dozens of people to Israel to explore the land and develop a connection with its people.
While I identify myself firmly on the left side of the political spectrum regarding Israel and while I do express criticism concerning the actions and policies of the Israeli government, I love the State and believe it is essential to the future of our people and to the world. I am frustrated and angry at policies that I believe run counter to the values of Jewish ethics but I recognize that since I neither live in Israel nor vote in its elections, I must defer to those who do to make decisions for its future.
I tear up a bit when I hear Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. I am filled with pride when I see the flag of the state and consider how far Israel has come in 70 years of existence.
But, let there be no mistake. My flag has stars and stripes and the Star Spangled Banner touches the deepest place in my heart.
The Prime Minister of the State of Israel, no matter who he or she may be, whether I agree or disagree with his or her policies, whether I respect him or her as an individual is NOT my Prime Minister. I owe that person no allegiance.
On the contrary, the President of the United States, whether I agree or disagree with his or her policies and whether I respect him or her as an individual is my President. It is to this nation that I owe my principal loyalty. I do care deeply about Israel but I am an American.
You have clearly been appealing to American Jews to recognize in your policies and actions relating to Israel, a reason to support your re-election in 2020.
While I can argue that your policies may not be in Israel’s best interest in the long run, that is not the issue I choose to address here.
Rather, here is the important point.
I will definitely consider a candidate’s position on Israel when I decide whom to support in 2020.
But, there are other issues that will affect my vote.
My vote will also be based on a candidate’s and party’s positions on health care, immigration policy, gun violence, tax policies, environmental concerns and civil rights for minorities of all types, to name a few. I will also consider whom I feel represents the United States best in the world community. These domestic issues are what motivate me as an American as I consider the future of my country.
Your statement about “your Prime Minister” angered me and I fear its ramifications. I am an American, a Jewish American whose loyalty to and status in this country should never be questioned or doubted.