Romney at Western Wall
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg

Good intentions, bad timing

Op-ed: Romney's decision to visit Western Wall on Tisha B'Av for photo op is insult to Jews

Four years ago, I wrote a column criticizing an American presidential candidate for coming to Israel as part of his election campaign. I felt that he was manipulating our country as a backdrop for a photo op. He wished to transmit a message from here to his Jewish voters – and more importantly, his Jewish donors – that they could clear their consciences. They could support him and still be able to call their Jewish mothers and tell them that Obama is a friend of Israel. As "proof" of that, he took time from his busy election campaign schedule to visit the Jewish state and tuck a note in the Westen Wall.


Back then, I had a feeling that a man who had been affiliated with racist haters of Israel - the Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan and Chicago preacher Jeremiah Wright - would not grow into a true lover of Israel, and I was right. I was wrong, however, in thinking that this publicity stunt wouldn't help him, and that the American people would see through it and could be trusted not to elect a man so bad for their own interests and so bad for the long special relationship between America and Israel.


I did not realize then how Obama would use this blessing from the land of Israel and succeed in raking in major Jewish support in America. Nearly 70% of America's Jews voted for Obama in the last elections. Apparently, they are not reading my column - or at least weren't reading it back then.


But let’s be clear, American support for Israel is not a side issue or a favor to Israel and the Jews. This is not an issue of dual loyalty. As many American Christians and others have come to realize, the practice of blessing Israel blesses them in return. A strong Israel is a benefit to America, because it is a reliable ally, like no other in this difficult region, maybe like no other anywhere.


For those who believe in the Bible, the explanation is easy to come by. In Genesis 12:3, G-d promises a blessing to those who bless Israel. For those who don't read the Bible, our track record will have to do. America has never gone wrong for standing with Israel, and has not done so well when it hasn't.

Today, I remember the piece I wrote on Obama’s campaign visit to Israel, as another American presidential hopeful makes his show of support for the Jewish people.


I am hopeful that Romney wins the elections in the US in November. I really don't know what expect from him, but hope that Obama will be leaving office ASAP. Romney's repeating of the expected mantra about America standing with Israel if Israel attacks Iran is not very convincing, and is pretty close to meaningless. Iran is not the private problem of the State of Israel - it is a concern for the entire free world.


We would like you to win

A true friend of Israel will give full backing to rewriting of the format and expectations for peace in the Middle East, recognizing the total failure of the Oslo and Road Map concepts, and acknowledging that we live in new circumstances after the fall of Gaddafi, Mubarak and soon-to-fall Assad (and King Abdullah). Continued efforts to bring life to the PLO by pretending that it is friendly, not corrupt, and that working with them is a realistic avenue for peace is the opposite of friendship to Israel (or the Palestinians, for that matter).


Regrettably, I feel unhappy today with Mitt Romney's visit to Israel: not because of the intention, which I believe is good, but because of the choice of the visit's date - which is terrible.


On this day, the 9th of the Hebrew month of Av, the Jewish people mark the anniversary of the destruction of our holy Temple in Jerusalem – the greatest symbol of Jewish national sovereignty in the land in the long history of Israel. This is the saddest day in our yearly cycle. We fast from before sundown the day before, until after sundown of the day itself. We go shoeless and do not bathe; we don't even wash our hands or brush our teeth for some 25 hours. On this day, we sit on the floors of our synagogues and read the book of Lamentations.


This is not a day for us to host honored guests. In accordance with our tradition, we don't even greet one another. How could our national leaders show such an important guest around without disregarding the laws and customs of our most intimate day of public mourning? But on the other hand, they do not want to be disrespectful to such a guest and turn him away.


I am very disappointed in those responsible for the timing of this visit. I do not expect Romney himself to learn all the manners and customs of the Jewish people, but I do expect one who sets out to repair relations with Israel to be a little more considerate.


Think of this distinguished visitor coming to the Kotel for a photo op, all shining clean and smiling – while walking by Jews sitting on the ground in mourning for our Temple that once towered over that very spot.


It is about as close as an insult to our dignity as could be conceived. It is something like coming to someone's mother's funeral and asking for cake, and then posting your picture all over the internet eating the cake, and commenting how much you love your host and promising to put in a good word for him if he has a problem with his neighbors.


Romney, we would like you to win. Sorry that you messed up this opportunity. I hope you can do better next time.



פרסום ראשון: 07.30.12, 11:13
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