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May 01, 1987 - Image 23

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1987-05-01

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wisdom, the short answer is an une-
quivocal yes.
Israel, the client, should be more
sensitive to the needs and interests of
its superpower patron. Instead, Israeli
arrogance, fed by a benign and forgiv-
ing Washington, has been transform-
ed into a dangerous illusion of
grandeur which has led Jerusalem
gratutiously to defy its greatest
Professor Gabriel Sheffer, a
specialist on Israel American affairs
at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, believes the relationship
between Israel and the United States
is, and will remain, unbalanced simp-
ly because Washington is not depen-
dent on Israel.
"Certainly," he says, "Israel is not
giving back $3 billion in services to
the United States."
The "soft," non-quantifiable fac-
tors — Israeli democracy, American
Jewry, philo-Semitism, the Holocaust
and scientific technological coopera-
tion — far outweigh any "hard"
And so, Israel continues to be
perceived as a beggar — one of a long
line — incessantly pounding on
Washington's door in search of
crumbs from the High Table.
But that is only one side of a
debate that is gathering momentum
in Jerusalem. For an articulate body
of opinion within Israeli society is
emerging to challenge vigorously this
stereotypical view of the American-
Israeli relationship.
While not comparing Israel to the
United States in terms of size,
wealth, power and influence, the stri-
dent new voices are nevertheless con-
tending that in the context of the Mid-
dle East, there is a certain symmetry
in relations between Washington and
Jerusalem, with the United States
perhaps enjoying a slight edge.
The $3 billion a year in aid and
grants which Washington provides
Israel is a tangible, concrete expres-
sion of its contribution to the relation-
ship; but the traffic in largesse, they
contend, is not simply one way.
The problem for Israel is that its
contribution to the relationship is far
more difficult to quantify or define. It
is, nevertheless immense.
• What value can be placed on
the battle-testing of America's state-
of-the-art conventional weapons
against the most sophisticated Soviet
• What value can be placed on
the strategic alliance, written and un-
written, between Washington and
• What value can be placed on
having a regional superpower capable
of checking Soviet military ambitions
in a turbulent-area?
• What value can be placed on an
alliance which greatly enhances

American And Israeli Jews:
Who Needs Who More?

"Is America Exile?" The subject
of the debate—between a leading
Israeli political scientist and an
American Jewish leader - attracted
a packed audience at a Jerusalem
Such intense interest was a symp-
tom of the fundamental questions
that are now being raised about the
complex relationship between Israel
and American Jews, particularly in
the wake of the Jonathan Pollard
spy scandal.
The protagonists were Shlomo
Avineri, professor of modem history
at the Hebrew University of
Jerusalem, and Abe Foxman,
associate director of the Anti-
Defamation League of Bnai Brith.
The result of the debate was
predictable enough (Avineri in-
sisting that America was a unique
and remarkable galut (Diaspora);
Foxman countering that the very
question was simply "irrelevant to
most American Jews").
But what gave the evening a
special significance was that it pro-
vided fresh evidence of a sea-change
in relations between American
Jewry and Israel.
Jonathan Pollard, said Avineri,
had merely crystallized an issue
that had been dormant at the heart
of this relationship for 39 years; an
issue that flowed from the Pollard
affair, but one that also transcended
"It is a moment of truth," he said.
"American Jewry and Israel have
never spoken candidly to each other
on issues where they feared dis-
In his view, American Jews have
a distorted notion of their own
power and of the importance of their
financial contribution to Israel.
Israel's strength, he declared,
does not derive from the political
power of American Jewish leaders.
Rather, he said, "the strength of
American Jewry derives from
Without Israel, and without their
links to Israel, American Jewish
leaders would be no more important
than the communal leaders of any
other religious or ethnic group in
Their access to the White House
and other centers of power are due
solely to their close ties to the
Jewish State.
Avineri called for relations be-

tween American Jewry and Israel to
be "emancipated from the cash
"We know that at least half of the
cash raised by the UJA stays in the
American communities," he said.
"And we all know that if those com-
munities did not have Israel as a
rallying symbol they would prob-
ably not be able to raise that money.
"You depend on us," he told his
American interlocutor, "probably
more than we depend on you."
"If the UJA stopped sending

"Get rid of the
cash nexus and the
debate between us
will be on a very
different level."

Israel $450 million, it would be a
hardship," said Avineri, "but in the
long run it would do Israel a lot of
good. It would force reforms that
won't be carried out otherwise, and
we would rid ourselves of the false
sense of dependency [on American
Jewry] that poisons our relations."
There was a time, he said, when
American Jewish contributions
were of tremendous importance to
Israel. But today, the combined con-
tributions of world Jewry account
for less than 2 percent of the coun-
try's $25 billion annual budget.
"Get rid of the cash nexus," he
said, "and the debate between us
will be on a very different level. We
can start talking about spiritual,
political and intellectual ties
without the constant pressure of
Abe Foxman said he would be
willing to "take the risk" of
American Jewry being able to raise
its own internal funds without wav-
ing the Israeli flag.
If Israel does not want the money,
he said wryly, "you have only to say
And if stopping the contributions
"will clear some of the constraints
in our relationship," he said, "per-
haps it is worth doing it."
The central issue of the Pollard af-

fair was not that it had exposed the
paranoia and galut mentality of
American Jewry, said Foxman, "but
that it had hurt American Jewry's
ability to help Israel.
"For 39 years we have labored,
without fear and cringing, to create
a relationship based on mutual
trust, understanding and credibili-
ty," he said. "Pollard undermined all
those things, the basic foundations
of our relationship.
"Israel, by its actions, highlighted
the question of American Jewish
loyalty. The Pollard 'affair has left
scars on our relationship and we
should face them. Instead you have
reacted with arrogance, calling us
names, as a people living in a soured
`promised land."'
There was indeed, said Foxman, a
need to review the fundamentals of
the Israel-American Jewry partner-
ship, "which for years has been
based on sloganeering—that we are
one, shareholders."
"You never really meant it," he
said, "while we in the galut believed
it and acted on it. But when Pollard
happened, we realized that we are
not one, or at least, very junior part-
Foxman acknowledged an ele-
ment of inequality in the relation-
ship. "Not because you are eman-
cipated and we are galut, but
because yours is a prime respon-
sibility and ours is secondary. You
vote and we do not. But we share in
your fate.
"Neither you nor we should pre-
tend to be what we are not. But if
we begin to approach each other
honestly—in a relationship built on
mutual respect, it makes little dif-
ference whether we live in the galut
or the Promised Land."
Professor Gabriel Sheffer, an ex-
pert on Israel-America relations at
the Hebrew University of Jeru-
salem, is a strong advocate of both
honesty and mutual respect in deal-
ings between Israel and American
He is, however, scornful of the
tedious string of dialogues, which
are mostly overladen with one
vested interest or another, as a tool
for achieving such ends.
"Dialogues are useless," says Shef-
fer, who has participated in more
than he cares to remember. "They
are always mediated by organiza-

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