A Historian Reflects on American Jewry’s Political Future

In a wide-ranging interview, the historian Jonathan Sarna discusses American Jews’ relationship with Israel, the changing role of the major denominations, the recent presidential election, and whether U.S. Jewry will maintain its long-standing alliance with the Democratic party. (Interview by Dror Eydar.)

The truth is that anyone who studies Jewish history knows that the extremes on both sides are dangerous for Jews. Very often, there is a convergence of the extreme left and extreme right. My concern is that this election has given certain fodder to the extremes. Hillary Clinton was trying to find a more centrist path. The failure of that path has led some elements in her party to say that this was a big mistake, and that they should have run a campaign aimed at the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic party, which would have focused on real change, and would have succeeded, in their opinion. I am not sure that is true. Those people, whether you are talking about Sanders or Senator Elizabeth Warren or Representative Keith Ellison, are very [hostile] toward Israel, although some of their domestic proposals find favor in the eyes of many American Jews.

It will be very interesting to see four years from now which wing of the Democratic party wins. I would not be surprised if the somewhat anti-Israel left-wing rises. Then it would be very interesting to see which Jews say they absolutely cannot vote for its candidates and which Jews say, “I am an American citizen and I better agree with the domestic policies of these candidates. Nor am I fond of Israel’s policies.”

I expect that Jews would tend in both directions. I would be very surprised if in the 21st century the Jewish community is as strongly Democratic as it has been for the 80 years or so since Al Smith, [the Democratic nominee who lost the 1928 elections to Herbert Hoover]. My guess is that in the years ahead, we will see a voting pattern among Jews similar to that of the 19th century, when everybody understood that the Jews were divided politically and that they were also willing to shift back and forth depending on the candidate.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: American Jewry, American politics, Democrats, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Jewish politics

No, Israelis and Palestinians Can’t Simply Sit Down and Solve the “Israel-Palestinian Conflict”

Jan. 17 2019

By “zooming out” from the blinkered perspective with which most Westerners see the affairs of the Jewish state, argues Matti Friedman, one can begin to see things the way Israelis do:

Many [in Israel] believe that an agreement signed by a Western-backed Palestinian leader in the West Bank won’t end the conflict, because it will wind up creating not a state but a power vacuum destined to be filled by intra-Muslim chaos, or Iranian proxies, or some combination of both. That’s exactly what has happened . . . in Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. One of Israel’s nightmares is that the fragile monarchy in Jordan could follow its neighbors . . . into dissolution and into Iran’s orbit, which would mean that if Israel doesn’t hold the West Bank, an Iranian tank will be able to drive directly from Tehran to the outskirts of Tel Aviv. . . .

In the “Israeli-Palestinian” framing, with all other regional components obscured, an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank seems like a good idea—“like a real-estate deal,” in President Trump’s formulation—if not a moral imperative. And if the regional context were peace, as it was in Northern Ireland, for example, a power vacuum could indeed be filled by calm.

But anyone using a wider lens sees that the actual context here is a complex, multifaceted war, or a set of linked wars, devastating this part of the world. The scope of this conflict is hard to grasp in fragmented news reports but easy to see if you pull out a map and look at Israel’s surroundings, from Libya through Syria and Iraq to Yemen.

The fault lines have little to do with Israel. They run between dictators and the people they’ve been oppressing for generations; between progressives and medievalists; between Sunnis and Shiites; between majority populations and minorities. If [Israel’s] small sub-war were somehow resolved, or even if Israel vanished tonight, the Middle East would remain the same volatile place it is now.

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Read more at New York Times

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Middle East