He Does Not Speak for Me

As the controversy continues to rage about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s planned speech before Congress, I feel compelled to say it clearly. Despite Mr. Netanyahu’s claim that he speaks for the entire Jewish people; he does not speak for me. I say this for three reasons. First, I say it because I do not agree with many of the Prime Minister’s positions. I’m not going to argue that Iran’s nuclear capability is not a threat to Israel. It potentially is a threat and he may be correct that sanctions and more are needed to insure Israel’s survival. But, putting the Iran issue into the context of the entire set of positions which Prime Minister Netanyahu holds and the actions of his government concerning the settlements, the lack of movement on a peace process (for which blame also lies with the Palestinian leadership), the treatment of asylum seekers and other issues he does not speak for me. He also does not speak for me when he arranges, without clear communication with the President, to speak to Congress two weeks before the Israeli election. This was an insult to our political system and the office of the Presidency. As I see it, it was an attempt by Speaker Boehner to recast support for Israel as a partisan issue, pitting Republicans against Democrats and trying to pander to American Jews. In addition, the timing is inappropriate. I do not want the Israeli prime minister to speak before Congress so close to the election to attempt to impress Israeli votes and to sway congress to his position. And, certainly not in the case where the invitation came from one political party. Finally, I do not believe that any one individual, not even the Prime Minister of Israel,  can speak for the Jewish people. When I stand up to speak before a non-Jewish audience, I always say that I’m not speaking for all Jews, nor for all conservative Jews, nor for all the members of my congregation. I am sharing one particular perspective: my perspective. That is what Judaism is as a religious faith. No one speaks for all Jews. And, what is true in our religious life ought to be true in our political life as well. We should all proudly identify with the state of Israel and passionately work for its survival and security. We should be profoundly thankful that we have a state. But, the prime minister of Israel is not the Chief Rabbi for all Jews. He is an elected official who will either be reelected or voted out of office next month. He is to be respected for his position and the difficulty of his task. But, he doesn’t speak for every Jew. And, in this case, he certainly does not speak for me.

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