Yediot’s Misgav on Ayalon and J Street: “Is there no-one in our government of midgets who can stand up and put an end to this madness?”
Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, was on the phone. He sounded agitated. “My great-grandfather came to Israel in the First Aliyah – he was one of the founders of Petach Tikva,” he declared. “The grandparents were among the first residents of Tel Aviv. They took part in the lottery for the shacks on the sand dunes. My father was a member of the Etzel. He organized the dispatch of weapons from America on the Altalena and he was on the deck of the ship when it was shelled. I live in Israel myself for years. No-one can teach me about what it means to love Israel. It’s unthinkable that the only way to love Israel is to agree with the political philosophy of Danny Ayalon.”
This week, Ben-Ami and J Street led a delegation of Congresspeople who came to Israel for a study tour and an exchange of opinions. Five members of the House of Representatives, all supporters of Israel, and all members of the Democratic Party, which ensures a solid majority in both Houses on Capitol Hill. Ben-Ami notes that most of the visit was fascinating and effective. “In Amman we met with King Abdullah and the Jordanian prime minister. We sat with Salam Fayyad, the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. We received briefings from UN officials in the Gaza Strip. We spoke to representatives of the Yesha Council and Peace Now. Naturally, we also submitted requests in advance to meet with Netanyahu and Barak, or at least with a senior Foreign Ministry official, but no such meeting materialized.”
The story has already been covered: On the instruction of Deputy Minister Danny Ayalon, the delegation was denied access to senior Foreign Ministry officials. It would be offensive to compare Danny Ayalon to Sancho Panza would be offensive – offensive to Sancho Panza, that is. Don Quixote’s assistant was intelligent and cunning and tried to correct his master’s mistaken perception of reality. Ayalon has recently gone out of his way to show stupidity and to wag his tail to please his master. Don Quixote may have tilted at windmills but he was motivated by idealism and good intentions. Lieberman is destructive and malicious and his approach is driven by personal and political machinations.
Under the aura of this pair, and with the tacit agreement of Netanyahu and Barak, Israel’s foreign policy has become a caricature. It has to be seen to be believed. The state of the Jewish people, which has fought boycotts for generations – in the UN Assembly, in Asia, in the Arab world, in academia, and in sport – has become the kingdom of boycotts and banishments. This is happening at the same time that Israel is subject to worsening international isolation, and astonishingly the targets are series of allies: Sweden, Norway, Turkey, and now J Street.
J Street is an organization that is sworn to uncompromising support for Israel and for a peace process that will secure the nation’s existence. It represents extremely powerful and important streams in American Jewry, particularly under a Democratic Administration. I have written here in the past about the foolishness of ignoring this stream, but last week saw new records of crudity and stupidity. “The Congresspeople told me that they were astonished, offended, and hurt by the attitude of the Foreign Ministry and the Israeli government toward them,” Ben-Ami told me. “My feeling is that you need to look in depth into how you cope with differences of opinion in Israel.”
The visitors were so offended that in an exceptional move they convened a press conference, demanded an official explanation, and protested at their depiction as enemies of Israel. It will be interesting to see what they have to tell their friend Rahm Emanuel when they return to Washington DC. Is there no-one in our government of midgets who can stand up and put an end to this madness?