Feinstein is correct: Netanyahu does not speak for Jewish Americans

To say that one person speaks for an entire religion or ethnicity is an egregious stretch of reason and logic. Take Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for example. Although a Catholic, Ryan certainly did not represent the views or beliefs of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In a letter to Congress in 2012, Bishop Stephen E. Blair disagreed vehemently with Ryan’s attempt at slashing food stamps and other services:

On behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I write to urge you to resist for moral and human reasons unacceptable cuts to hunger and nutrition programs…

Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment. These cuts are unjustified and wrong…

I respectfully urge that the committee reject any efforts to reduce funds or restructure programs in ways that harm struggling families and people living in poverty.

Therefore, even though the congressman claimed his faith had influenced his budget proposal, the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops stated Ryan’s budget failed to meet their “moral criteria.” In addition, U.S. News & World Report states that Catholics have “for the most part” voted Democrat during the past 50 years. Obama won the Catholic vote in 2008 and 2012. 

Like U.S. Catholics, there isn’t a politician in the world qualified to speak for Jewish Americans. While Prime Minister Netanyahu has accepted Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) invitation to speak in Congress, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is absolutely correct in highlighting that this invitation is a “political move” that is “not helpful.” In addition, Sen. Feinstein also explained during a recent CNN interview that Netanyahu does not speak for her as a Jewish American, nor does the Prime Minister speak for Jews throughout the United States:

“When Netanyahu says he’s coming to speak, he says he speaks for all Jews. Does he speak for you?” Bash asked.

“No, he doesn’t speak for me on this,” Feinstein responded.

Bash then asked Feinstein if the statement bothered her.

“I think it’s a rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other community. There are different points of view,” Feinstein said. “I think the arrogance does not befit Israel.”

Feinstein has eloquently voiced the viewpoint of a great many Jewish Americans, in addition to correctly stating that Netanyahu’s claim was “arrogant.”

In fact, it is indeed arrogant for Netanyahu to claim that he speaks for the over 6 million Jews in the United States, especially when he doesn’t even speak for all Israeli citizens. According to a recent poll by The Jerusalem Post, 60 percent of Israelis “don’t want Netanyahu anymore.”  According to a recent Guardian article, Issac Herzog and Tzipi Livni are “running neck and neck with Netanyahu’s Likud or leading by a handful of seats.” Thus, he might not even win the election this month, so to say that he speaks for anyone but Likud voters is a politically motivated stretch of logic.

Feinstein’s view of Netanyahu also mirrors the voting patterns of Jews in America. According to Pew Research, Obama won 78 percent of the Jewish American vote in 2008 and 69 percent in 2012, while Kerry and Gore each won over 70 percent of this demographic. According to Allan Mazur of Syracuse University, “Today’s Jews strongly identify themselves as Democrats rather than Republicans, and they are more likely to call themselves politically ‘liberal’ than other Americans.”

Also, a recent USA Today article states that, “Many Jewish leaders are disappointed that Netanyahu has refused to meet separately with a group of Democratic lawmakers, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein…” 

Feinstein has stated that she is “very concerned” about Netanyahu’s upcoming speech and this is also my view as a Jewish American. When an Israeli Prime Minister visits Congress under the guise of speaking for all Jews, without even realizing that Jewish Americans vote Democrat and are historically more liberal than most other groups, his endeavors are purely political in nature. Furthermore, many people in both Israel and America feel Prime Minister Netanyahu’s posturing in regards to negotiations with Iran has done a disservice to the nation of Israel.

Finally, imagine if President Obama went to Israel in order to speak to the Knesset and lobby for a foreign policy objective espoused by Isaac Herzog or Yair Lapid. How would Netanyahu feel about Obama’s speech? When such overt political maneuvering is done in the name of millions of other people, Feinstein is right to label this behavior as “arrogant.”

The U.S. and Israel are close allies and should always remain close allies, but Netanyahu should remember that he speaks only for himself. Like Feinstein, the millions of Jewish Americans he’s claimed to represent will make their own conclusions independently. 

Goodman is an author, columnist, and contributor to the Times of Israel and other publications.

Tags Boehner Dianne Feinstein John Boehner Paul Ryan

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