THE BLOG

Netanyahu Is an Ass, But He's My Ass

02/25/2015 01:16 pm ET | Updated Apr 27, 2015

I can't take one more social media post, tweet, or article in which a Jewish Democrat whines about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech on the Iranian nuclear threat before a joint meeting of Congress. I don't care that it is uncomfortable to be a liberal Zionist during these dark days of Invitegate. As my Aunt Bella says, "It was never supposed to be easy to be Jew. It was meant to be a sacrifice."

Yes, the surreptitious invitation from House Speaker John Boehner was flat out wrong. The Israeli Prime Minister had no business negotiating an invitation to speak before the American Congress without informing the White House. It is the president's prerogative to handle foreign policy. Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon, is right to see the bypass of the West Wing as an insult to President Barack Obama. Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer was disrespectful to meet with Secretary of State Kerry the day before Boehner's announcement without informing him about the speech. The timing of the speech is ethically challenged. As a supporter of Netanyahu's opposition, I resent the speech being used as an election prop.

But all this chatter about the invitation misses the point. As much as I hate it, chutzpah is the Israeli default option out of necessity. Israel is a tiny country surrounded by enemies and has been forced to fight for its legitimacy since inception of the state. We all may love to hate Netanyahu's audacity, but it has made him the longest serving prime minister in Israel's history. Although I never voted for him while living in Israel, I, along with a majority of voting Israelis, have always counted on Netanyahu to do what it takes to protect the security of Israeli citizens and by extension all Jews. In other words, Netanyahu is an ass, but he's my ass.

While French President Hollande requested that he stay away from the Charlie Hebdo march in Paris, it made me feel safer that the Israeli Prime Minister defied him by marching. I saw this as a proclamation to world Jewry that Israel will always have your back. His brazen invitation asking European Jews to immigrate to Israel may have been grating to some. I only wish that there had been an Israeli Prime Minister in the 1930s to issue a brazen invitation to European Jews to immigrate to Israel and warning about the dangers of staying in Europe. Then scores of my relatives might not have perished at the hands of the Nazis.

My dead relatives are the reason that I support Netanyahu pulling out all the stops to make the case to Congress against an Iran agreement. My surviving family members have often told stories on how good life was in Poland for them until one day it wasn't. Never again is not a slogan to me. It is a way of life.

Israelis have a reputation as the fearless Jews. The threat of a nuclear attack is the one thing undermining that zeitgeist. Living in Israel during the second Gulf War, I saw firsthand how the country became unnerved and undone at the possibility of a nuclear attack by former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. I guess practicing putting a gas mask on your child can do that to you.The threat of Saddam's nuclear threats were the only time Israelis actively urged me to leave the country, even temporarily, to avoid being there during an attack.

This stood in contrast to the typical Israeli's shrugging off of terrorist attacks. Despite a horrendous terrorist attack at a hotel in Netanya that killed 29 Israelis on the first night of the Seder in 2002, my family, who were not religious by any stretch of the imagination, conducted the first night Seder without missing a beat. No one interrupted the Seder to watch the news of the attack because that would have been surrendering to the enemy.

Israeli's intelligence minister, Yuval Steinitz, cogently explained via the Washington Post Netanyahu's rationale for opposing an Iranian agreement. The upshot is Israel is worried that the Iranian agreement will not be worth the paper that it is written on. If Iran violates the agreement in the future, Israel will be left defenseless due to the time lag in building a coalition to attack Iran. Despite being war weary, I still want Congress to hear this critical information before voting on the Iranian agreement. I am not willing to risk the decimation of Israel on issues of protocol no matter how substantive.

Jewish Democrats need to suck it up and support Netanyahu's speech no matter how uncomfortable it makes them. Yes, this is the first time in a long time when Jews have had to choose between being a Jew or Democrat first. This isn't the big deal that some are making it. No person or group is 100 percent in agreement with their political party or chosen president. This is a tiny opening not a giant chasm between Jewish Democrats and the Administration, American Jews should be able to delineate between Obama's policy towards Israel, which has generally been supportive, and the Iran nuclear agreement.

The entire Jewish community need to denounce Park Avenue rabbis who wring their hands complaining at the effect Netanyahu's speech is having on American Jewry. We are doing fine. Jews in America have never had it better. America is not the Polish shetl of the 1880s.

Liberal Jews need to concede we were wrong to shrug off concerns about the fissure between Obama and Netanyahu during the 2012 elections. The newspaper ads, placed by Jewish Democrats declaring that Obama is stronger on Israel than the Republicans, need to be condemned as a fiction. We need to stop deluding ourselves that op-eds, such as Betsy Sheer's "Who can we trust on Iran? Obama not his opponents," are still accurate.

If you want to be counted as a pro-Israel activist, this is the time to stand up, not after it is late. It is striking to me that some of the Jews vexed about the impending speech on the threat of nuclear Iran are descendants of American Jewish families who ignored the Nazi threat in the 1930s. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.