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Forget Obama: Israel Needs Congress — and American Jews

Jennifer rightly decries Barack Obama’s lack of leadership in stymieing a UN effort to set up an “international inquiry” into Israel’s raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla. But Congress need not wait for him to act; it could pressure the UN to desist all by itself, via its power of the purse.

The salient precedent occurred in 1974, when “UNESCO voted to exclude Israel from one of its regional working groups because Israel supposedly altered ‘the historical features of Jerusalem’ during archeological excavations and ‘brainwashed’ Arabs in the occupied territories,” as Front Page magazine recalled in a 2003 essay. Congress retaliated by suspending funding for the organization. UNESCO eventually gave in and readmitted Israel.

The U.S. provides 22 percent of the UN’s budget, so Congress has plenty of leverage. Nor need it threaten to pull the plug on the entire UN: it could deprive some specific UN agency of that 22 percent, as it did with UNESCO in 1974. And because Congress is far more pro-Israel than Obama, trying to work through Congress makes sense.

Even Congress, however, wouldn’t take such a step without strong pressure from American Jews. Jennifer has repeatedly (and rightly) bemoaned this community’s unwillingness to confront Obama, but another issue is at play here, too: American Jews, being overwhelmingly liberal, are reluctant to support an Israeli government that many deem “right-wing” or “hard-line” (to quote the mainstream media’s favorite terms).

What they fail to realize, however, is that even Israel’s left considers a UN inquiry utterly unacceptable. Here, for instance, is what Ze’ev Segal, legal commentator for the far-left daily Haaretz, said on June 4: “Recent experience — both the Goldstone Committee’s report on last year’s war in Gaza and the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the separation fence – shows that international probes related to Israel are irredeemably politically biased, due to the political composition of international bodies like the UN.” And again, two days later: “Israel cannot agree to an international investigation, which would be political and biased.”

Thus, by backing Israel on this issue, American Jews would be supporting not just the government they hate but also the left-wing opposition they adore.

And while American Jews sometimes wonder how much clout they really have under a Democratic administration, the consensus seems to be “plenty.” Consider, for instance, this New York Times piece on Turkey’s radicalization, which quoted unnamed “analysts” as saying that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s behavior toward Israel “boxes in the Obama administration, forcing it into a choice between allies that the Turks are sure to lose.”

Bizarrely, the Web version offers no explanation of this assertion. But in the print version of the Times’ overseas edition, the International Herald Tribune, the next paragraph does: “‘If Obama is faced with the choice of the American Jewish community or Turkey, he’s not going to choose Turkey,’ said a former American diplomat.”

The same would undoubtedly be true were Obama faced with a choice between American Jews and a UN flotilla inquiry. Unfortunately, American Jews have yet to present him with such a choice.



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