Partnership under stress: The American Jewish Community and Israel


The purpose of this study is to identify the basic sources of friction within the American Jewish community-friction that could provide the Clinton Administration with a broader margin of maneuverability vis-a-vis the Netanyahu Government in future crises. The community's historic role, which became fully evident in the 1970s, was to offer unreserved support to Israel, while limiting the range of measures the U.S. government might implement vis-a-vis the Jewish state. In recent years, however, the situation has been reversed, with the American Jewish community increasingly prepared to criticize and constrain the Israeli government, while supporting a more assertive American role in the peace-making process. A process of continued erosion of the basis of the special U.S.- Israel relationship became evident following the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister, as a result of the conversion law initiative and the continued stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. This ensures that in future confrontations between Washington and Jerusalem, the Israeli Government will lack at least part of its traditional base of support in American public opinion-which in the past repeatedly forced Washington to abandon or scale down initiatives perceived by Israel as threatening its vital interests or policy tenets.
It is hoped that this effort to elucidate the changing dynamics of Israel's relationship with American Jewry will encourage a reassessment of at least some of the preconceptions that still pervade the thinking of most Israeli decision makers. One of these is the belief that the American Jewish community and leadership can be easily mobilized in support of Israel, even in cases that do not affect her survival and basic security needs. A reappraisal of such conceptions would pave the way for a more realistic view of the role that American Jewry is likely to play in future encounters with Washington.


I. Early Developments

The central argument of this study is that the American Jewish community was transformed, during the early 1980s, from a cohesive entity united in its unqualified support for Israel, into a fractured and fragmented community. It is further argued that the conversion law initiative, as well as the continued stalemate in the Israel-Palestinian peace process, are likely to exacerbate the crisis, leading significant segments of American Jewry--particularly within the Reform community--to drift into indifference to or alienation from Israel.
American policy toward Israel was never shaped in a political, social and ideological vacuum. Indeed, in seeking to promote their regional and bilateral objectives, the architects of American Middle East diplomacy were continuously faced with a broad complex of domestic constraints, which either aborted or severely limited the effective pursuit of desired regional strategic objectives. The fact that Israel was dependent upon American military, economic and political support was not automatically translated into effective U.S. influence: There was no guarantee that the American patron would always be successful in directing Israeli policies in accordance with U.S. interests and policy goals. Given the salience of these constraints, the entire course of American-Israeli relations can be analyzed as a sequence of efforts to limit the Administration's margin of maneuverability vis-?-vis Israel. American strategic objectives in the Middle East-which included, during the early stages of the Cold War, the desire to forge a broad inter-Arab security alliance for the sake of containing the Soviet Union-repeatedly clashed with the constraints imposed by the special relationship.
Based upon a broad complex of beliefs and sentiments, these constraints reflected a "widespread fund of goodwill toward Israel that is not restricted to the Jewish community," in addition to an equally strong and persistent commitment--in American public opinion--to Israel's national existence, well-being, and security.1 A range of broadly based attitudes underscored the affinity between the two national entities, in terms of their pioneering spirit, historic legacy and commitment to democracy. This perception of Israel emerged on the American scene as a legitimate and pervasive concept as soon as Israel was established in 1948. Its basis was implicit in President Truman's decision (made despite the strong opposition of Secretary of State George Marshall, Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett, and the head of the Near East Division in the Department of State, Loy Henderson) that the United States would be the first nation to recognize Israel. It was also reflected in his pledge to Israel's first president, Chaim Weizmann, to use the influence of the United States to ensure Israel's survival and well-being. There can be no doubt that these presidential decisions were based on moral, cultural and religious premises (such as the perception of Israel as fulfilling the biblical prophecy that the Jews would return to the promised land) rather than on strictly geo-strategic considerations. Further inspired by Truman's perception of American public opinion, the logic and impact of these premises sometimes outweighed other calculations-those that were linked to an unsentimental vision of American strategic interests in the Middle East. Such a vision was predicated upon the belief that the pursuit of a conciliatory, highly accommodative posture toward the Arab world was the most appropriate means for securing an uninterrupted flow of Middle East oil to Western Europe, and for enticing major regional powers to contribute to the defense of the area.
An examination of the prevailing attitudes of the American public, as well as of assorted leadership groups, to Middle Eastern issues during the decades that followed Truman's "recognition decision" suggests that sympathy for Israel far outweighed support for the Arab cause. This cannot be explained solely as a continued residue of guilt derived from the Holocaust and the plight of European Jewry during the Second World War. In Quandt's words:

The bond between the United States and Israel is unquestionably strengthened because of the congruence of values between the two nations. Americans can identify with Israel's national style in a way that has no parallel on the Arab side. Neither the ideal of the well-ordered Muslim community nor that of a modernizing autocracy evokes much sympathy among Americans. Consequently, a predisposition exists in American political culture that works to the advantage of the Israelis.2

An equally pervasive public perception of Arab intransigence (at least prior to President Sadat's peace mission of 1977) further reinforced and sharpened American identification with Israel. Indeed, in the absence of firm indications of a general Arab willingness to adopt a more flexible and pragmatic posture toward Israel, it was widely felt that the exertion of pressure on Israel would only encourage the Arab camp to hold to its recalcitrant and uncompromising course.
In view of the durability, pervasiveness and legitimacy of the elements comprising the American image of Israel, it is hardly surprising that Jewish groups and organizations were frequently successful (particularly since the 1960s) in promoting pro-Israeli policies, programs and legislation. The success of American Jews in advancing their interest in Israel has largely depended upon the continued sympathy, or at least acquiescence, of their coalition partners and the public at large. This deeply-held and broadly shared commitment to Israel's existence, security, and well-being, which reached its peak in the wake of the Six-Day War of June 1967, therefore formed the prism through which the activities of such influential Jewish groups as the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), were viewed. From the beginning of the 1960s, by virtue of their unbreakable link to the core of the special relationship between Washington and Jerusalem, these organizations were able to impose constraints on the range of options available to the executive branch. In a number of instances, moreover, Washington was forced to take actions that were incompatible with perceived American strategic interests in the Middle East.
In seeking to influence the course of American policy in the Arab-Israeli sphere, American Jewry traditionally projected an image of solidarity in its constant support of Israeli attitudes, positions and security needs. An early indication of this propensity is the fact that by an overwhelming majority of 90 percent, American Jews in 1948 "supported the establishment of Israel, Jewish immigration to Israel, the Israeli Declaration of Independence and the decision [of] President Truman to recognize Israel immediately after its birth."3 This early vision of Jewish unanimity in support of Israel remained essentially intact in the course of the four decades that followed the establishment of the State, with the rate of Jewish respondents who expressed unfavorable feelings toward Israel seldom exceeding 10 percent.
A clear illustration of the role repeatedly played by Jewish organizations and leaders in constraining or aborting initiatives perceived as incompatible with Israel's security interests is provided by the "reassessment crisis" of 1975. In this episode, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wished to rapidly conclude an interim agreement between Israel and Egypt in the Sinai peninsula, thus guaranteeing that Egyptian President Anwar Sadat would be fully and irreversibly drawn into the Western bloc at the expense of the Soviet Union. His desire conflicted with the Israeli insistence on specific trade-offs with Egypt (e.g., between the scope of Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai peninsula and the nature of Egyptian commitments on such issues as non-belligerence) as the main prerequisite for an acceptable agreement on partial Israeli withdrawal from Sinai. The Ford Administration viewed an early conclusion of any Egyptian-Israeli accord negotiated by the United States--regardless of its particular provisions--as an impetus for accomplishing a wide range of both regional and global objectives. Israel's policymakers, on the other hand, were more skeptical and circumspect. While sharing some of Kissinger's regional objectives, they focused on the narrow parameters of the Israeli-Egyptian relationship, insisting on a formal Egyptian statement proclaiming an end to the state of belligerence as a precondition for Israeli withdrawal from the Mitla and Gidi passes in the Sinai. When confronted with President Sadat's staunch refusal to issue any such formal announcement, the Israeli negotiating team remained unresponsive to Kissinger's plan that Israel accept certain "functional equivalents" of non-belligerence.
Then came the "reassessment" posture of March 1975, which was construed by President Ford and Secretary Kissinger as a means of softening Israel's initial opposition to the proposed withdrawal. Their idea was to impose limited sanctions (including suspension of consideration of future economic and military assistance) as well as certain implicit threats (reconvening the Geneva Peace Conference with Soviet participation as co-chairman, for example). The American effort was abortive. In pursuing its coercive drive, the Administration could not remain oblivious to such domestic factors as the opinions of the leadership of the Jewish community and the Congress, which ultimately narrowed its margin of maneuverability and latitude of choice. Indeed, by May 1975 it had become abundantly clear to Ford and Kissinger that the Administration lacked the infrastructure of domestic support necessary to accomplish its objectives.
The most powerful indication of domestic discontent, which played a major role in affecting Washington's perceptions and expectations, was conveyed to the administration on May 21, 1975. Incensed by what they saw as the exertion of "too much pressure on Israel," 76 Senators responded favorably to an AIPAC initiative and sent a strongly-worded letter to the president, urging him to be "responsive to Israel's economic and military needs." The letter was reinforced by a spate of messages sent to the president by most Jewish organizations, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC), demanding that the administration "stand firmly with Israel in the search for peace in future negotiations,"4 and was the major factor in changing the Administration's stance. Lacking the necessary base of public and Congressional support for effectively pursuing its "reassessment" policy, President Ford and Secretary Kissinger decided to soften the American strategy. Previously reluctant to compensate Israel for the unilateral concessions it was being asked to make to Egypt, they were now prepared to offer a wide assortment of inducements and incentives in order to coax the Rabin Government into abandoning most of its demands vis-a-vis Egypt.
Specifically, the architects of American diplomacy now agreed to provide Israel with large-scale economic and military aid and advanced weapons. In addition, several far-reaching political and strategic guarantees were incorporated into an American-Israeli Memorandum of Understanding, which was initiated on September 1, 1975, as part of the second Sinai agreement. In accordance with this memorandum, the administration undertook to consult with Israel in the event of any threat to it from "a world power"; to supply oil to Israel "if the oil Israel needs to meet all of its normal requirements for domestic consumption is not available for purchase; to continue to maintain Israel's defensive strength through the supply of advanced types of equipment; to continue to adhere to its present policy of nonrecognition of the PLO as long as it does not recognize Israel's right to exist and does not accept Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and to consult fully and seek to concert its position and strategy at the Geneva peace conference on this issue with the government of Israel."5
In view of these incentives, Jerusalem's policymakers ultimately decided to set aside their reservations. On September 1, 1975, Israel signed the second Sinai agreement. This final version was essentially identical to the draft Israel had rejected in March. It fell considerably short of Israel's initial expectations and was still largely unbalanced in favor of Egypt: the Israeli withdrawal from the Mitla and Gidi passes and from the oil fields of Abu Rudeis was not reciprocated by any explicit Egyptian commitment to terminate the state of belligerence. But the American incentives had provided the impetus for modifying Rabin's position, inducing him to sign an agreement in which the mediator, rather than the opponent, offered the necessary compensation for Israel's territorial concessions.
Far from being an isolated and unique event, the "reassessment crisis" of 1975 was but one of many cases in which the Jewish community and its Congressional allies succeeded in aborting or significantly modifying American initiatives in the Arab-Israeli sphere. For example, two years after the resolution of the "reassessment crisis," the Carter Administration came to recognize that it lacked the necessary margin of domestic support to implement the October 1, 1977, joint superpower statement on the Middle East. This document sought to involve the Soviets in the peace-making process and compel Israel to agree to PLO participation in the Geneva Peace Conference that President Carter hoped to convene before the end of 1977. It precipitated a storm of domestic protest in the U.S. and, as in the case of the "reassessment crisis," the leadership of the Jewish community acted swiftly and unanimously to back Israel's resistance to the superpower initiative. Fully and unequivocally supportive of the Israeli refusal to recognize the PLO unless it accepted Security Council Resolution 242, the Conference of Presidents (headed by Rabbi Alexander Schindler, leader of the Reform movement), labeled the October 1 communique "an abandonment of America's historical commitment to the security and survival of Israel." An avalanche of angry telephone calls and telegrams then descended on the White House, mostly from Jewish groups.6
Confronted by these mounting signs of domestic dissent and defiance, and faced with an irreconcilable Israeli refusal to acquiesce in the PLO's participation at Geneva, the Carter Administration was forced to shift gears and offer Israel compensation of such magnitude as to nullify most aspects of the new U.S. strategy. Ultimately, in an American-Israeli working paper concluded on October 5, 1977, the Administration agreed to modify radically the October 1 statement, and reaffirmed its 1975 commitment to Israel not to accept any new participant in the peace process without the consent of all the parties. Faced--as was the case during the "reassessment crisis"-- with a cohesive and determined Jewish community, the besieged Carter Administration ultimately agreed to "interpretations [of the October 1 statement] that seriously diluted the mandate of the proposed [peace] conference." Although the working paper, like the superpower declaration, called for Palestinian participation in the Geneva conference, it stated that Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 remained the only basis for negotiations in Geneva (these resolutions had been omitted from the October 1 document) and that all the initial terms of reference concerning the conference remained in force "except as may be agreed to by the parties."7

II. Origins of Cleavage

This picture of harmony and basic unity between the American Jewish community and the Israeli Government--with all major segments of American Jewry prepared to support Israel's positions and policies--started to evaporate in the course of the Lebanon War. During the summer of 1982, no less than 40 percent of the Jewish community began to question Prime Minister Begin's commitment to peace. And shortly after the September 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre (in which Maronite Christians killed hundreds of Palestinians in refugee camps outside Beirut), a survey showed that 49 percent of Jews supported a reduction in, or a freeze of, the level of American aid to Israel as a means of forcing an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon. A majority "felt that Begin's policies hurt support for Israel in the United States." Furthermore, 65 percent of the Jews surveyed in a Gallup poll, conducted immediately after the Sabra and Shatila killings, said that Israel had been at least partially responsible for the massacre.
These findings were similar to those of numerous polls that indicated a growing tendency, particularly among groups of young, affluent and non-Orthodox Jews, to support the posture of territorial compromise in defiance of the traditional Likud position. But the clearest manifestation of the growing strain in relations between American Jewry and Israel emerged after the proclamation, on September 1, 1982, of the Reagan Peace Plan. Whereas in 1975 and 1977, the Jewish leadership had acted forcefully and unanimously in criticizing the administration's coercive posture, in 1982 several prominent Jewish leaders, as well as leading pro-Israeli lobby organizations in Washington, publicly endorsed various facets of the Reagan Plan, in defiance of the official Israeli position. AIPAC director Tom Dine and Kenneth J. Bialkin, the national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, were among the leading voices.
Although these indications of erosion did not drastically diminish the constraining role of American Jewry, they did demonstrate that for all its durability and broad legitimacy, the special relationship was not a static complex of beliefs, immune to reinterpretation and change. Thus, while the crisis of 1982 had largely subsided by the end of the year, a residue of skepticism regarding Israel's overall conduct on the Palestinian front would continue to preoccupy a significant segment of the American Jewish community in the future. Furthermore, beyond its specific context, the 1982 crisis underscored an important fact: American Jewry was now increasingly predisposed to set aside its traditional image of Israel as a highly vulnerable entity, surrounded by a monolithic coalition of irreconcilable and powerful enemies irreversibly committed to its destruction. Instead, American Jews were inclined to adopt a more realistic view of Israel as a major regional military power, whose survival and well-being were no longer in doubt. With the long-standing vision of an acute Arab threat to Israel's survival receding into the background, a growing number of American Jews were increasingly prepared in 1982 (and on later occasions) to voice their concern over various aspects of Israel's behavior on the Arab-Israeli front. Israel, after all, was no longer in mortal danger; it could therefore cope with Jewish expressions of concern in cases where Israeli conduct was perceived as incompatible with the basic norms and principles of the special relationship paradigm.
By the late 1980s, the time of the intifada and the Israeli decision to reject the Shultz Peace Plan, these new attitudes, which reflected Israel's emergence as a dominant Middle Eastern power, resurfaced dramatically, accelerating a reassessment process that had begun at the start of the decade, and significantly eroding the traditional pattern of automatic support for Israel in the diaspora.
Indeed, toward the end of the decade, the growing Jewish concern with the way Israel was attempting to defuse and suppress the intifada converged with, and was reinforced by, mounting criticism of what Jewish leaders like Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, perceived as "a coherent Israeli policy of never relinquishing any part of the territories." This growing Jewish propensity to criticize Israeli policies and behavior in the Palestinian sphere did not unfold in a vacuum; it reflected the growing fragmentation of Israeli society and the mounting divisions within Israel itself regarding the Palestinian issue and its preferred resolution.
As a result, a sense of frustration came increasingly to permeate the thinking of broad segments of the Jewish community. This growing disenchantment was particularly pervasive among young, college-educated and affluent Jews (part of the Jewish "leadership audience)," who were in general well-informed about the Middle East. Highly and openly critical of the Shamir Government and its approach to the peace process, this leadership group (whose views were comprehensively analyzed in November 1989 by Market Facts Inc.) objected, by majorities of over seven to one, to annexing the West Bank and expanding settlement activity in the occupied territories. Seventy-six percent of those interviewed in the November 1989 survey favored an Israeli withdrawal from territories in the West Bank and Gaza, provided "credible guarantees" of peaceful Arabs intentions could be obtained. Furthermore, 63 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that Israel's continued occupation of the territories "will erode Israel's democratic character," with only 29 percent disagreeing. On another sensitive point, the survey found that 73 percent of those questioned supported the idea that Israel start a dialogue with the PLO "if it recognized Israel's right to exist and renounced terrorism," whereas only 20 percent expressed opposition.8
The growing propensity of American Jewry to openly criticize the official Israeli position, while setting aside its traditional role of constraining Washington's coercive initiatives, became evident once again in 1991 and 1992, during the crisis over Israel's request for $10 billion in housing loan guarantees to accommodate the wave of immigration to Israel from the former Soviet Union. The Bush Administration adopted, in September 1991, a posture of procrastination on the Israeli request, insisting on a specific trade-off between approval of the loan guarantees and a revision of the Shamir Government's position on such issues as Resolution 242 and Israel's settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza.
An examination of the role of the leadership of the Jewish community in the course of the "loan guarantees crisis" exposes a picture of sharp divisions among the most determined and ardent supporters of Israel, who in 1975 and 1977 had expressed their total support for the positions taken by the Rabin and Begin Governments. Together with Israel's Congressional allies, who were reluctant to be associated with a course that could be construed as incompatible with America's economic needs, broad segments of the Jewish leadership were highly critical, in 1991 and 1992, of Israel's settlement policy. Rather than challenging the administration, they urged the Israeli Government to refrain from any action that might precipitate a direct confrontation with President Bush. For example, a survey from early November 1991 that examined the attitudes of 205 officials and board members of the Council of Jewish Federations found that 78 percent of those interviewed supported the freezing of settlement activities in order to obtain the loan guarantees, while 88 percent endorsed the notion of territorial compromise in the West Bank. A concurrent survey of leadership opinion, conducted by Martilla and Kiley for the American Jewish Congress, pointed to almost identical preferences: 78 percent of the respondents supported the suspension of settlement activities in return for the loan guarantees, while 66 percent supported such a freeze in return for the suspension of the Arab trade boycott on Israel.
With part of Israel's base of support in American public opinion becoming increasingly critical of Israel's settlement policy, President Bush did not encounter much Jewish opposition to his decision of February 1992 to make the loan guarantees contingent upon an ironclad Israeli pledge to immediately freeze all construction in the occupied territories. As a result, the Shamir Government found itself (in the course of the subsequent fruitless negotiations over the specific terms of the loan guarantees) deprived of much of its traditional infrastructure of support in American public opinion. Indeed, Shamir's intensive efforts during the winter of 1992 to secure at least a portion of the guarantees without acquiescing in the new American demand, proved futile. He ultimately remained empty-handed, with the entire issue temporarily suspended.
It was only with the return of the Labor Government to power, in the wake of the Israeli parliamentary elections of June 23, 1992, that the loan guarantees crisis was resolved. Prime Minister Rabin's decision to change Israel's order of national priorities and thus suspend construction of new "political settlements" precipitated an immediate change in the American position and led to President Bush's decision--of August 1992--to approve the Israeli request for $10 billion in housing loan guarantees.


III. American Jewry and the Peace Process

Ironically, the changes in the structure of the traditional "Jewish constraint," manifested in the willingness of a growing part of the Jewish community and leadership to openly criticize the Rabin and Peres Governments rather than the Clinton Administration, surfaced during a period (1992-1996) in which relations between the two governments were most friendly and intimate. Whereas previous crises had developed between an assertive American administration and a defiant Israeli government, with the Jewish leadership rallying in support of Israel, the picture changed dramatically during the first term of the Clinton presidency. Now, both governments were endeavoring to constrain a growing segment of the Jewish community (and its Congressional allies) that was highly critical of the Oslo Accords and the policy of accommodation with the Palestinians. Thus, at the very moment when tension between the two governments had subsided, the American Jewish community was becoming rife with tension and charged with controversy. Increasingly disposed to abandon its traditional policy of providing full support for Israel's peace-making strategies, the community embarked upon a defiant posture vis-a-vis the Rabin and Peres Governments. Seeking to prevent the implementation of the Oslo framework, a vocal segment of American Jewry attempted--particularly during the summer and fall of 1995--to elicit support from the U.S Congress. Although this group constituted no more than 30 percent of American Jewry, its strong ties with key Congressional figures, together with its combative tactics, contributed to its salience and effectiveness on the American scene.
The findings of the August 1995 survey of American Jewish attitudes toward Israel and the peace process, compared with those of similar surveys in 1993 and 1994, clearly indicate that opposition to the process had gained strength, and that "support for the Israeli Government's peace initiative [had] declined over the past two years." They also demonstrate that, contrary to concurrent trends in Israeli public opinion, "a majority of Jewish respondents were opposed to any Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights" as well as to the granting of "American economic aid to the Palestinians."9
Moreover, whereas in September 1993, 84 percent of those interviewed had expressed support for the "Israeli Government's current handling of the peace negotiations with the Arabs," in August 1994, only 77 percent of the respondents did so. This trend continued in the August 1995 survey, with 68 percent expressing support for Rabin's accommodative posture vis-a-vis the PLO. More specifically, the 1995 survey established that among those favoring Israel's peace policy, only 64 percent expressed support for the way Israel was conducting negotiations with the Palestinians. By comparison, in August 1994, 70 percent of those respondents who agreed with Israel's peace posture specifically supported Rabin's course in the Palestinian sphere.10 (In several polls between 1974 and 1980, Harris asked American Jews whether the Israeli leadership was interested in a "just peace settlement." In 1974, 89 percent said yes, and in 1980, 87 percent agreed with this statement, which was not limited to the Palestinian sphere.)
More recently, the annual survey of American Jewish attitudes on a variety of political, ideological, religious and cultural issues was conducted between February and March 1998 by the American Jewish Committee. Against the backdrop of the continued stalemate in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and the growing difficulties in implementing the Oslo Accords, only 56 percent of the respondents expressed their support for "the Netanyahu Government's current handling of the peace negotiations with the Arabs." The New York Times survey from April 1998 found that only one-quarter of the Jewish respondents held the view that Prime Minister Netanyahu had mostly kept Israel's peace agreements with the Palestinians. (A concurrent survey by The Los Angeles Times found that 45 percent of the Jewish respondents expressed general support for Netanyahu.)
However, in assessing the significance of these surveys, one should not overlook the fact that the political context and regional landscape in 1997 and 1998 were vastly different from those of 1993 and 1994. Growing indications of distrust and skepticism toward the PLO and Chairman Arafat were manifested in the fact that only 42 of the participants in the AJC survey of March 1998 expressed support for the establishment of a Palestinian state, compared with 57 percent in a similar AJC survey in 1993. There were also increasing doubts concerning the willingness of the Israeli Government to make its own contribution to the peace process. Thus, while no less than 66 percent of American Jews still supported an Israeli-Palestinian accommodation (according to the Los Angeles Times survey of April 1998), the Jewish community was becoming increasingly predisposed to adopt a more balanced view regarding the origins of and responsibility for the prolonged impasse within the Israeli-Palestinian sphere.
Clearly, the remaining Jewish support for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement was now coupled with growing doubts as to the short-term feasibility of this highly-desired objective. Visions of Israeli and Palestinian intransigence permeated the thinking of growing numbers of respondents in all recent public opinion polls, albeit not to the same extent.
More direct indications of skepticism within the American Jewish community toward the Arabs in general and the PLO in particular during the period preceding the Israeli elections of May 29, 1996, are provided by a comparative review of reactions to the following statement: "The goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories but rather the destruction of Israel," and to the question: "Can the PLO be relied upon to honor its agreements and refrain from terrorist activities against Israel?" Concerning the statement on Arab objectives, in September 1993, 42 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement that the Arab goal was the destruction of Israel; the figure climbed to 51 percent in August 1994 and 56 percent in August 1995. As for the PLO, whereas--in September 1993--42 percent expressed the belief that the organization could not be relied upon to honor its agreements and refrain from terrorism, this ratio increased dramatically to 65 percent in August 1994 and to 71 percent in August 1995. By comparison, in the AJC annual survey of 1998, conducted between February 19 and March 8, 68 percent of the respondents expressed the belief that the Arab goal was to destroy Israel. In a similar survey conducted five years earlier, only 42 percent held this view.
These indications of growing erosion in American Jewish support for Israel's peace strategy were reinforced by another finding of the August 1995 survey, which demonstrated that opposition to Israel's peace posture was particularly strong among respondents who felt "very close" to Israel and who followed the news about Israel "very closely."

In other words, divisions over Israel's behavior had become deepest among those respondents who showed the greatest degree of attachment to and identification with Israel (particularly Orthodox Jews), and who had in the past been the most vehement defenders of Israeli policies and actions. (The August 1995 survey revealed that whereas 32 percent of Conservative Jews and 13 percent of Reform Jews said that they were very closely attached to Israel, no less than 62 percent of Orthodox Jews reported such feelings). Instead of mobilizing the entire Jewish community to actively support the Rabin Government, this group became the most vocal and determined focus of opposition to the peace posture pursued by the Israeli Government on both the Palestinian and Syrian tracks. Specifically, the August 1994 survey found that 54 percent of Orthodox Jews expressed opposition to the Oslo process, and similar findings were reported in the 1995 survey. (The April 1998 survey of The Los Angeles Times found that 60 percent of Orthodox Jews were opposed to the Oslo process).
In the aftermath of Rabin's assassination, most American opponents of the peace process temporarily adopted more conciliatory rhetoric, in an effort to heal the wounds and avoid an irrevocable rupture within the Jewish community. However, although the findings of a similar survey, conducted in January 1996, indicated that 79 percent of American Jews now supported the peace process, a significant majority of the respondents viewed criticism of the process as legitimate. The survey also found that 56 percent of Orthodox Jews continued to oppose the peace process. These figures remained essentially unchanged in a July 1996 survey conducted by Penn and Schoen Associations for the Israel Policy Forum, and in a February 1997 survey, which found that 56 percent of Orthodox Jews opposed the Hebron Agreement.11
For all its dramatic impact, the Rabin assassination could not completely arrest the profound and pervasive process of change that continued to affect the thinking and political behavior of the American Jewish community. Indeed, as the Rabin legacy progressively faded into the background, an overwhelming majority of Jewish respondents, in a number of public opinion surveys conducted in 1996, while still supporting the peace process, was increasingly sensitive to indications of Palestinian militancy and intransigence. Such indications were evident both in the wave of suicide bombings that swept Israel in March 1996, and in the violent reaction of the Palestinian Authority to Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision, in September 1996, to open the Hashmonaim tunnel in the Old City of Jerusalem. These developments further reinforced the deep-seated, lingering doubts within the American Jewish community regarding the viability of the peace process with the Palestinians.12
Far from remaining merely a source of verbal protest and discontent, the critical voice of this hawkish segment of American Jewry increasingly became a consistent constraint upon both the Clinton Administration and the Israeli Government. The views expressed by the Jewish opponents of the peace process on such issues as deploying American troops on the Golan Heights as part of an Israeli-Syrian accord or providing long-term economic assistance to the Palestinian Authority further reinforced some deeply-held Congressional attitudes and acted as a constraint on both the Clinton Administration and the Rabin and Peres Governments. In the case of the Middle East Peace Facilitation Act (MEPFA), this Jewish opposition led to repeated delays in the legislative process. Indeed, during the years 1994-1996, a new coalition emerged between a number of leading conservative Senators and Congressmen and several representatives of the Jewish community in an effort to undercut--or vastly complicate--progress in the Israeli-Palestinian sphere, in defiance of both the Israeli Government and the Clinton Administration (which acted jointly in support of MEPFA). Deep-seated and widespread feelings of suspicion toward the PLO among key members of both houses of Congress converged with, and were further reinforced by, the views and sentiments of a salient minority of American Jewry to block, at least temporarily, the efforts of both the Clinton Administration and the Rabin and Peres Governments to pass the MEPFA bill as a major inducement to the PLO. There is no doubt that the decision of the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, Benjamin Gilman, to delay the legislative process by holding hearings--in September 1995--on the PLO's mode of conduct in the aftermath of the Oslo Accord of September 1993, was the result of the strong pressures exerted by leading members of his constituency (mostly Orthodox Jews), in defiance of the official Israeli position. Among those invited to testify before the committee were staunch and well-known opponents of the peace process within the Jewish leadership, such as Morton A. Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America. This guaranteed that the procedure would be arduous and protracted. Prime Minister Rabin appealed to the Congressional leaders involved in the process (including the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Jesse Helms, and Congressman Benjamin Gilman) to support the bill, and AIPAC undertook an intensive lobbying effort on Capitol Hill on behalf of the bill. Both Senator Helms and Congressman Gilman opted, however--in September 1995--to oppose MEPFA unless it incorporated a number of provisions intended to guarantee that the PLO would fully comply with the letter and the spirit of the Oslo Accord.
It was only in January 1996, almost four months after the conclusion of the second Oslo Accord (the Interim Agreement), that Congress passed MEPFA, which was later incorporated into the 1996 Foreign Aid Bill.13
On the whole, Congress has continued to be highly supportive of Israel, increasing assistance levels beyond those requested by the president, granting lenient loan repayment terms and the converting of loans to grants, and has initiated new foreign aid programs to Israel's benefit. Nevertheless, it is clear that the growing links between key members of both houses of Congress and leading members of the Jewish community who have been highly critical of the Israeli peace posture could potentially erode the power and influence of mainstream representatives of the special relationship in their continued quest to exert influence upon the executive branch.
Most Jewish umbrella organizations, including the Council of Jewish Federations, the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council, and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, have remained continuously committed to the peace process (and have endorsed the Hebron Agreement of January 1997). However, the more determined opposition groups, like the Rabbinical Council of America (which represents Orthodox rabbis), have become increasingly prominent on the American scene by virtue of their arguments as well as combative rhetoric. The stormy confrontations that took place between 1993 and 1995 between such opposition leaders and spokesmen as Harvey Friedman and Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, on the one hand, and Jewish and Israeli representatives, including national ADL director Abraham Foxman and the Israeli Ambassador to Washington, Itamar Rabinovitch, on the other, were but a few illustrations of the deepening divisions which--on the eve of the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin--threatened the core of the special relationship.
Indeed, contrary to the unobtrusive manner in which most Jewish organizations acted in support of the peace process, the minority that opposed it demonstrated, during the Rabin and Peres periods, a high level of resolve in seeking to abort the Oslo framework. Highly committed to Israel and intimately familiar with the Israeli political system, this group of largely Orthodox Jews (who comprise 11 percent of the American Jewish community), increasingly became a vocal and powerful constraining force vis-?-vis the Israeli Government, using its leverage with key Congressional leaders for (a) blocking legislation supported by both the Rabin Government and the Clinton Administration or (b) promoting legislation in defiance of the preferences and policies of official Washington and Jerusalem.14
It is precisely this picture of disunity in the Jewish community, with growing segments of American Jews either openly challenging Israeli policies or drifting into alienation or indifference, that may ultimately provide the Clinton Administration with a broader margin of maneuverability and latitude of choice vis-?-vis the Netanyahu Government. With major representatives of this community unwilling to lend automatic support to the positions advocated by the Israeli Government, a window of opportunity may therefore be opened for Washington to accomplish an objective that has eluded the architects of American diplomacy for five decades: the resolution of the Palestinian predicament. Indeed, with the Jewish community divided in its views of what Israel's vital interests entail, and with the backbone of support for Israel on the American domestic front becoming increasingly susceptible to fracture, it is doubtful whether American Jewry can continue to effectively perform its traditional constraining function. Thus, although the Clinton Presidency has not yet taken advantage of the opportunities inherent in this revised domestic context, the possibility that it will resort to forceful tactics vis-a-vis Israel in future crises should not be discounted.


IV. American Jewry: A picture of Growing Fragmentation

The events that followed the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as Israel's prime minister on May 29, 1996, provided yet another impetus for accelerating the shift from unity and consensus to dissent within the Jewish community, with the core of the special relationship rapidly becoming a highly-fractured framework, whose components are continuously engaged in disputes with the Netanyahu Government over such issues a Israel's peace strategy and the conversion law, rather than in more traditional activities in support of official Israeli policies and strategies. During the Rabin and Peres era, it was the Orthodox critics of the Oslo process within American Jewry who vociferously attacked Israeli policies from the right wing of the political spectrum. Following the election of Benjamin Netanyahu, it was the liberal mainstream of the Jewish community (composed largely of Reform and Conservative Jews) that increasingly became the source of protest and opposition to Jerusalem's peace policies and legislative initiatives.
It is true that Netanyahu's election helped to momentarily defuse the tension between the segments of American Jewry opposed to the peace process and the Israeli Government. However, his highly controversial decision in September 1996 to open the Hashmonaim tunnel--which precipitated widespread violence across the West Bank--quickly became the source of bitter disputes within the American Jewish community. Most groups and organizations expressed strong reservations about the decision, in view of its violent local and regional repercussions. Clearly, the divisions in the traditional pro-Israeli base of support were so deep that they could not be eliminated overnight as a result of leadership changes in Israel. They were destined to cloud American-Israeli ties and vastly complicate any renewed Israeli effort to use the Jewish community as a lever to thwart American attempts to redefine its margin of maneuverability in the Arab-Israeli sphere.15
It became increasingly clear after Netanyahu's election that part of the supportive infrastructure that had provided Israel with a vital safety net in confrontations with Washington, had eroded and that future crises within the American-Israeli framework were likely to unfold in a less benign setting, with significant factions of the Jewish community either refraining from actively supporting Israel, or actually encouraging the Administration in its efforts to persuade, deter or even punish the Israeli Government.
In this context, 81 percent of the Jewish respondents in a February 1997 public opinion survey (conducted by Penn and Schoen Associates for Israel Policy Forum) expressed strong support for the active American role in the negotiations that led to the Hebron Agreement and for "an active American role in both future Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian negotiations." This is an indication that at least some of the likely ramifications of an increased U.S. role--including coercive measures vis-?-vis Israel or the formulation of an American peace plan--would be acceptable to a significant part of American Jewry.16 In another survey, conducted by Penn and Schoen Associates in September 1997, the percentage of Jewish respondents who indicated full support for an active American role in the peace process had increased to 89, with no fewer than 84 percent of them supporting the exertion of pressure by the administration upon both Netanyahu and Arafat in an effort to induce them "to act more constructively and be more forthcoming in the negotiations." Eighty-seven percent of the respondents in the September 1997 survey expressed their belief that, in order to revitalize and reinvigorate the peace process, the administration "should offer its own ideas to bridge gaps between the parties." In the same survey, 79 percent of the respondents indicated support for one such idea, namely, the proposal that Israel agree to temporarily suspend its settlement activity.17
In view of the pervasive and broadly-based belief (which, in the September 1997 survey, was shared by no less that 91 percent of the respondents) that President Clinton was "supportive of Israel," an overwhelming majority of the American Jewish community had no reservations in supporting, in late 1997, an assertive role for the American mediator (incorporating such measures as "diplomatic prodding"). This contradicted the traditional Israeli position that the American role in the peace process should be strictly confined--at least in the American-Israeli sphere--to the offering of inducements and "positive sanctions." During the early 1980s, successive surveys indicated that no less than 89 percent of American Jews remained opposed to the exertion of American pressure upon Israel "to adopt a more conciliatory approach in dealings with the Palestinians." This picture had completely changed by the late 1990s, with a majority of American Jewry increasingly supporting the exertion of American pressure on the Netanyahu Government as a means of promoting the peace process. Clearly, the era of automatic support for Israel by American Jewry and its unified identification with the Jewish state had come to an end.

The storm of Jewish protest that greeted Prime Minister Netanyahu's decision, of September 1996, to open the Hashmonaim tunnel, was the first in a sequence of crises in the Palestinian sphere that exposed deep divisions within the American Jewish community, and precipitated open and harsh criticism from prominent Jewish leaders and organizations. No less controversial than the tunnel episode was Israel's decision in March 1997 to construct the Har-Homa neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.
Although the leadership of the Conference of Presidents issued supportive statements, several other leaders and organizations (mostly liberal) sharply criticized the measure, called upon Netanyahu to take a "time-out" from settlement expansion, and demanded that the administration intervene more forcefully in the peace process. In April 1997 Secretary of State Madeleine Albright met with a group of Jewish leaders, which included Robert Lifton, the former president of the American Jewish Congress, and Henry Siegman, its former executive director. Whereas the ultra-dovish views of these leaders had made them in previous years peripheral figures within the American Jewish community, they now gained prominence against the backdrop of the continued impasse in the peace process. In the course of the meeting, the participants unanimously criticized "Netanyahu's procrastinating tactics" and urged Secretary Albright to increase her personal involvement in the process. In numerous crises that had clouded American-Israeli relations since the 1960s, leaders of the Jewish community had been unequivocal (and sometimes outspoken) in their support of the Israeli position. But the 1990s witnessed the emergence of a new behavioral pattern on the part of broad components of the American Jewish community, whose objective now was to constrain the Israeli Government rather than the Clinton Administration. Indeed, for several of the participants, the April 1997 meeting with the secretary of state was not an isolated episode, but an integral part of a consistently defiant pattern of behavior vis-?-vis the Netanyahu Government. (This pattern surfaced once again in December 1997, when such Jewish leaders as Abraham Foxman, National Director of the ADL, expressed dissatisfaction over the stalled peace process, while praising President Clinton's strong pro-Israeli record).
On several occasions in the aftermath of the April meeting, Lifton was outspoken in urging the administration to use its influence to revitalize and accelerate the peace process. As the head of a Middle East special study group established by the Council on Foreign Relations, Lifton drafted the introduction to its final report, which called for the mobilization of American Jewry in support of a more active American role in the Palestinian sphere.18 Similarly, in an article published in the International Herald Tribune on July 4, 1997, Siegman sharply criticized the construction at Har-Homa and urged the administration to intensify its involvement in the Palestinian sphere so that the Oslo Accords and the Hebron Agreement would be fully implemented. Siegman was equally outspoken in asserting--on several occasions--that in view of the continued impasse in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, Albright's first trip to the Middle East as secretary of state should become the springboard for a more determined and assertive American peace-making role. Furthermore, on the eve of Albright's visit--in September 1997--Siegman was among the Jewish leaders who signed an open letter to the secretary of state, urging her not to focus exclusively--in the course of her Israeli visit-on the need to combat Palestinian terrorism, but to impress upon Prime Minister Netanyahu the equally urgent need to renew negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. This letter further reinforced the message that Siegman and Lifton had sought to convey in an earlier open letter, which was published in major American and Jewish newspapers in July 1997. This message stated that "the best way by which we can support Israel is to encourage our government to intensify its efforts to achieve Middle East peace."19
In the past, all initiatives designed "to save Israel from itself" had originated with individuals who were consistently critical of the very essence of the special relationship. In 1996 and 1997, however, the demand that the administration raise the profile of its involvement in the Arab-Israeli conflict and in the process incorporate such coercive measures toward Israel as an American peace plan (in the hope that such pressure would provide the necessary impetus toward progress on the Israeli-Palestinian front) was made by the individuals and groups most intimately associated with the very core of the special relationship, those who were considered part of the mainstream--rather than the periphery--of American Jewry.
The findings of a public opinion survey from February 1997 clearly demonstrate that the growing willingness of Jewish leaders and organizations to openly challenge the Israeli Government, and thus abandon the community's traditional supportive role, had gained broad credence and legitimacy. In the survey, 67 percent of the Jewish respondents expressed the opinion that public criticism of Israeli policies by members of the American Jewish community was legitimate. Only 31 percent argued that public criticism of Israel should be avoided.20
One year later, in the annual survey of American Jewish opinion conducted by the American Jewish Committee, this picture remained unchanged, with 64 percent of the respondents maintaining that American Jews had the right "to publicly criticize the policies of the government of Israel." Only 33 percent expressed opposition to such criticism. (By comparison, the September 1997 Penn and Schoen survey found that no less than 82 percent of American Jews believed they had the right to publicly criticize the Israeli Government).
Against the backdrop of the growing polarization in the American Jewish community, along with its open criticism of Israel, it is clear that the Clinton Administration can now maneuver between the opposing Jewish factions and ultimately weaken the influence of the institutional leadership of American Jewry (particularly the Conference of Presidents) which still refrains, by and large, from public criticism of the Netanyahu Government's policies toward the Palestinians.
This picture of political and ideological fragmentation is further compounded by indications of a growing cultural, demographic and religious crisis within the American Jewish community, dramatically manifested in an intermarriage rate of 52 percent in 1990, as compared with only 6.7 percent during the 1940s and 1950s, as well as a steady decline in the fertility rate of the non-Orthodox communities, which averaged between 1.5 and 1.6 children per couple in 1996. These indications raise doubts as to the future of this community as a viable, vibrant and influential pressure group. The recent decline in the percentage of the Jewish vote in both the presidential elections of 1996 and the Congressional elections of 1994 is another indication of the potential erosion in the political power and influence of the American Jewish community.
With the decline of many dense and homogeneous Jewish neighborhoods across the U.S. (except in New York), and with the growing exposure of the young Jewish generation to divergent social and religious customs, norms and patterns of interaction, intermarriage rates rose sharply and rapidly from 2 percent during the decades from 1900 to 1940 to 17.4 percent for those married between 1966 and 1970.21 Indeed, not only has the rate of intermarriage been sharply rising in recent decades, but no fewer than 65 percent of American Jews (surveyed in 1995) viewed intermarriage as legitimate and acceptable. The annual public opinion survey of Jewish attitudes, conducted for the AJC in 1997,. found that 75 percent of the respondents expressed the opinion that their choice of a spouse would not be affected by religious considerations. And while the older Jewish population still expressed reservations about intermarriage, the attitude of the younger generation is fundamentally different. Whereas 43 percent of the Jews aged 60 and above had "very negative feelings about intermarriage," only 5 percent of the Jews from the age of 18 to the age of 29 expressed such sentiments. Similarly, while 51 percent of the older generation surveyed expressed opposition to the intermarriage of their children, only 16 percent of the respondents aged 18 to 29 were opposed to such an eventuality. On the whole, intermarriage rates were lowest among "those who are more committed religiously" and highest among members of the Reform movement, which has become in the 1980s and the 1990s the most popular movement by virtue of its "religious minimalism". Indeed, the Reform movement has clearly become most susceptible to the impact of social, cultural and religious assimilation and hence is the most likely group to feel indifference to and alienation from Israel as a result of its diminishing affiliation with Jewish traditions and institutions. In a recent survey of intermarriage rates, only 18 percent of the children of mixed marriages were reported as being raised as Jews; 31 percent were being raised with no religion, while 41 percent were being brought up in another religion.22
Data on the synagogue affiliations of American Jewry confirm this portrait of an increasingly fragmented and heterogeneous community, whose growing Reform periphery has become increasingly predisposed to disengage from traditional patterns of Jewish cultural and religious life. Compared with the 48 percent of American Jews who were found to have been synagogue members in the 1971 national Jewish survey, a similar study in 1990 discovered that only 41 percent of "entirely Jewish households" were members of synagogues and that mixed Jewish families had even lower rates of affiliation. (The Los Angeles Times survey of April 1998 revealed that 45 percent of the respondents were members of synagogues). In addition, the 1990 national survey found that only 17 percent of the entire Jewish community usually lit candles on Friday nights and two-thirds usually lit candles during Hannukah, while over one-third usually have a Christmas tree. By comparison, the April 1998 survey of Jewish attitudes, conducted by The Los Angeles Times, found that 62 percent of the respondents usually lit candles during Hannukah while only 5 percent lit candles on Friday nights, and that 28 percent of Jewish households usually have a Christmas tree.
Jack Wertheimer concludes his analysis of the Jewish drift toward religious minimalism with these words: "clearly, the observance of traditional religious rituals that require ongoing attention is in steep decline."23
Recent surveys of American Jewish cultural and religious preferences have identified a renewed interest--among a segment of the Jewish population aged 18 to 29--in Jewish culture, identity and history. This trend, however, has yet to spill over from the realm of domestic ethnic attitudes and preferences to the Jewish-Israeli framework, and has thus far developed without any direct linkage or allegiance to Israel, or to the legacy of the special relationship. Nor is it capable of counterbalancing and neutralizing the social forces of assimilation and socialization, which set in motion--and later accelerated--the disruptive processes of fragmentation and change.
The findings of several public opinion surveys conducted in 1997 and 1998 to assess the ties between divergent Jewish groups and Israel, are fully compatible with this vision of growing fragmentation and assimilation of the American Jewish community. They also paint a picture of widespread alienation between the non-Orthodox sector of American Jewry and the Jewish state. The surveys show that only 23 percent of Reform Jews and only 37 percent of Conservative Jews defined their affiliation with Israel as "very deep". Among Orthodox Jews, 62 percent expressed such feelings. These surveys identified a large group of American Jews, comprising 56 percent of the entire Jewish population--that is either completely disengaged from Jewish cultural, religious or social life, or is only loosely and peripherally engaged in such activities as celebrating Jewish holidays or attending synagogue.
A comparison of the surveys conducted by the American Jewish Congress in March 1988 and 1998 indeed indicates that this group of disengaged Jews has increased significantly during the last decade: the percentage of Jews who maintained that they were either closely attached or attached to Israel decreased from 75 percent in 1988 to 58 percent in 1998. (The March 1998 survey found that no less than 62 percent of the respondents had never visited Israel, while only 18 percent had visited Israel more than once.)24
This picture of growing alienation, accompanied by pervasive skepticism among broad segments of the American Jewish community regarding Israel's current peace posture, is further reinforced by indications of an overwhelming support (over 80 percent) among American Jews for "a forceful American posture" vis-?-vis the Netanyahu Government, incorporating specific forms of pressure. This picture raises serious doubts as to the willingness and motivation of most mainstream forces of the community to mobilize in support of Israel when the highly-charged cluster of issues related to a permanent Palestinian-Israeli settlement becomes the subject of negotiations.
Furthermore, as the traditional infrastructure of Jewish support becomes increasingly susceptible to erosion, one should not discount the prospect that the same processes affecting Jewish thinking could spill over to broader segments of American public opinion. Indeed, the findings of several public opinion surveys conducted in 1997 in an effort to identify the preferences of the general public in the Palestinian sphere indicate that growing Jewish skepticism on the Israeli peace approach indeed permeated American public opinion and thus did not remain confined to the groups most intimately concerned with the Israeli-Palestinian conundrum. For example, a Harris poll of August 1997 found that no more than 42 percent of the American public agreed with the statement that Prime Minister Netanyahu "was mostly keeping agreements previously made in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians" while 40 percent of the respondents expressed their belief that he "was mostly breaking them." Similarly, in contrast to the traditional propensity of the American public to view the Arab party as largely responsible for the perpetuation of the conflict, a survey conducted in April 1997 by NBC News and The Wall Street Journal portrayed a far more symmetrical picture. According to the survey, 23 percent of the respondents believed that Israel "was mostly responsible for the current problems" in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, while 23 percent believed that both parties were equally responsible for the impasse. (Thirty-three percent of the respondents blamed the Palestinians for the lack of progress in the Palestinian sphere.) Yet another indication--albeit an indirect one--of the fact that the general public, not merely the Jewish community, was now increasingly prepared to deviate from basic beliefs and predilections related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is provided by the findings of a Harris poll of March 1997. In response to the question of whether the U.S. government was right or wrong in vetoing a Security Council resolution condemning Israel for its plan to build the Har Homa neighborhood, equal proportions of those interviewed (43 percent) supported and condemned the decision. Clearly, the automatic, instinctive predisposition of an overwhelming majority of American public opinion to side with Israel (regardless of the specific issue at stake)--which began to erode during the 1980s--has now disappeared, leaving Israel with a reduced base of support on the American domestic front.25
By the spring of 1998, it had become increasingly clear that it would not be easy to bridge the gap between previously entrenched patterns of Jewish thought and behavior and present Jewish preferences and types of organized activity in the face of the growing tension between Washington and Jerusalem. Whereas the Jewish community had traditionally reacted with defiance in the face of repeated American efforts to impose a settlement (as was the case in 1977) or unilaterally delineate the territorial components of a peace settlement, no such reaction was in sight in the spring and early summer of 1998, when Administration officials repeatedly blamed Israel for the continued impasse in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority over the scope and terms of its withdrawal from the West Bank (the second redeployment or pulse).
Similarly, President Clinton's refusal, in November 1997, to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu, did not precipitate any pubic criticism on the part of most American Jewish leaders and organizations. Similarly, in its meeting of December 1, 1997, the leadership of the Conference of Presidents decided not to issue a statement in support of Netanyahu, and an editorial in Jewish Week asserted that the Israeli prime minister was fully and exclusively responsible for the deepening crisis in American-Israeli relations.

V. American Jewry and the Conversion Law

For all its gravity and possible ramifications, the growing split within the American Jewish community on issues related to the peace process and Israel's foreign policy was only one facet in a broader, emotion-laden picture of mounting cultural and religious friction between a large majority of American Jewry, on the one hand, and the Israeli Government and religious establishment in Israel, on the other.26 During 1997 and early 1998, some Jewish leaders and organizations were increasingly engaged not only in incessant disputes over the direction of Israel's peace strategy, but in formulating and implementing their own punitive measures vis-a-vis the Israeli Government over the issue of the conversion law. Indeed, the same constituency that had traditionally endeavored to minimize or abort Washington's efforts to exert pressure upon Israel was now prepared--in the vastly-revised setting of 1997--to resort to similar coercive tactics in the hope of influencing Israel's behavior on the highly-charged issue of the conversion law.
In this respect, the acrimonious debate over the conversion law, which permeated the American Jewry in 1997 and deeply enraged the Reform and Conservative communities, further accelerated the ongoing processes of alienation from Israel and assimilation into American society and culture, which had come increasingly to characterize the thinking and behavior of these communities, particularly those of the Reform movement.
The conversion law was designed to formalize and institutionalize the prevailing norm, according to which the only acceptable conversions in Israel would be those performed by Orthodox rabbinic authorities. In view of the fact that no less than 79 percent of American Jews who belong to established congregations are affiliated with either the Reform or Conservative movements, it is clear why the controversy over the law quickly became fraught with so much emotion and anger. A majority of Jewish leaders and organizations launched a harsh, unprecedented campaign of protest against the perceived attempt to delegitimize their Reform and Conservative rabbis, while giving legal status--for the first time--to the Orthodox monopoly. This storm did not subside despite the fact that, in September 1997, the legislative process of the conversion law was suspended. It further aggravated the already charged relations between the non-Orthodox American Jewish community and the Israeli Government and religious establishment, as well as between Reform and Conservative Jews, on the one hand, and American Orthodoxy, on the other.
The crisis over the proposed conversion law can be viewed as an intensification of the 1987 controversy that enraged the American Jewish community over the issue of "who is a Jew." That crisis originated in the desire of Israel's religious establishment to amend the personal status law and thus define a Jew as any individual born of a Jewish mother or "converted to Judaism according to the Halacha, that is, by Orthodox rabbis."27 So enraged were the Jewish Federations of Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles by this initiative, that they threatened to withhold contributions earmarked for Israel if the amendment were to pass. It was only after the failure of the proposed amendment in December 1987 that the crisis was defused.
A decade later, faced with another effort to amend the personal status law, Reform and Conservative Jews--profoundly offended by what appeared to be a blatant onslaught on the legitimacy of their rabbis and synagogues--became equally enraged and defiant, despite the fact that Reform and Conservative conversions abroad would continue to be recognized by the new legislative initiative.28
A clear illustration of the prevailing mood of the Reform and Conservative communities at the time is provided by the March 1997 decision of the San Francisco Jewish Federation "to slash its support for traditional Israeli charities by $1 million (or 17 percent of its annual contributions to the United Jewish Appeal) because of Israel's religious policies."29
Frustrated with Prime Minister Netanyahu's initial willingness to support the conversion law, the San Francisco Jewish Federation demonstrated that coercive diplomacy against Israel could be pursued by segments of the Jewish community. The Israeli Government could no longer rely upon its traditional broad base of support to offer unlimited goodwill and solidarity, regardless of Israel's conduct. Concurrently, the San Francisco Federation initiated a new fund-raising campaign, designed to finance programs aimed at promoting tolerance, democracy and pluralism in Israel. Rather than continuing its fund-raising activities under the exclusive auspices of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA), which cooperates closely with the Israeli Government, the San Francisco Federation opted to redirect contributions to Israel from the UJA system to such alternative charities as the New Israel Fund, the Abraham Fund, and the Israel Policy Forum, whose activities were viewed as incompatible with the Orthodox stream of Judaism. (One year later, in April 1998, in a move linked to the conversion law crisis, natural gas tycoon Charles Shusterman announced his decision to donate $5 million to build a synagogue and a convention center in Jerusalem for the Reform movement).30
One month after the "San Francisco decision" had been made, it became abundantly clear that this act indeed reflected the prevailing mood of both the Reform and Conservative communities across the U.S. and could not be attributed to a local set of considerations or circumstances. Incensed by the fact that the conversion law had passed the first hurdle of the legislative process in the Knesset in March 1997, the national leaders of both the Reform and Conservative communities in the U.S. issued a series of strong, uncompromising statements, calling upon "the American Jewish community to stop at once all contributions to Israeli organizations and bodies--including governmental agencies--which refused to recognize non-Orthodox forms of Jewish life."31
The San Francisco initiative was a reflection of broader processes of reassessment of the American-Jewish community's traditional role, a fact which became evident in June 1997, when the Boston and Cleveland Jewish Federations adopted similar measures to those initiated in March in San Francisco. Seeking to disassociate themselves from the UJA, the leaders of these federations were now increasingly prepared to contribute directly to programs and organizations whose activities in Israel were perceived as representing the antithesis of the conversion law initiative and the ideology upon which it was based.32 The Cleveland Jewish Federation, for example, decided to divert $3 million of its projected donations in 1998 from traditional outlets such as Israel Bonds and the UJA to programs that promote pluralism and religious diversity in Israel. Similar measures were proposed by a variety of local and national Reform and Conservative leaders, including Rabbi Ammiel Hirsh, the executive director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America.33 Several spokesmen of these congregations were even more combative, urging non-Orthodox American Jews to sever all ties with members of the Israeli political system who either actively supported or acquiesced in the conversion law. (This implied that campaign contributions for Knesset members seeking reelection, who were associated with this legislation, would be withheld).
In August and September 1997, it became increasingly clear that the San Francisco, Cleveland and Boston initiatives had provided the inspiration and precedent for other local congregations to follow, thus penetrating the social and religious infrastructure of the entire American Jewish community. In September alone, at least a dozen Reform and Conservative synagogues decided to drop their annual High Holy Day appeals for the UJA and Israel Bonds and replace them with appeals for the liberal New Israel Fund or for Reform and Conservative programs in Israel. Clearly, rather than lending their unqualified support (as they had in the not too distant past) to programs and positions initiated and pursued by the Israeli political and cultural establishment, broad segments of the Reform and Conservative communities in the U.S. have now embarked upon a new and more active type of behavior, designed to influence the nature of Jewish identity in Israel.34
Several incidents in which non-Orthodox worshippers, including women's prayer groups, were attacked in the Western Wall area by Orthodox crowds, further incensed the leadership of various Reform and Conservative organizations. They intensified their attacks, during the spring and summer of 1997, on the Orthodox establishment in Israel and on the Israeli Government, thus precipitating equally harsh and intransigent rhetoric on the part of Orthodox spokesmen in Israel and the U.S. On several occasions during this period, Rabbi David Hollander of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis in the U.S. sharply denounced the Conservative and Reform movements, maintaining that they were "religiously invalid" and an aberration of Judaism. Equally harsh statements were made by representatives of a variety of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox organizations, including Rabbi Sherer who--in a typical message reflecting the combative mood of American Orthodoxy--announced plans to launch a $2 million advertising campaign to counter what he defined as "an organized effort on the part of the Reform and Conservative movements to cast Orthodox Jews as 'Khomeini-like fanatics."
Another spokesman of Agudat Israel of America, Rabbi Jonathan Rosenblum, adopted particularly bellicose rhetoric in maintaining that to allow Reform and Conservative leaders recognition in Israel would be "like bringing Pol Pot back to Cambodia."35
The refusal of the Orthodox establishment in Israel--which surfaced repeatedly during the summer of 1997--to agree to the appointment of non-Orthodox delegates to local religious councils was another source of grievance for the non-Orthodox community in the U.S. This issue further aggravated a situation already permeated with tension and animosity within the American Jewish-Israeli framework as well as within the confines of the American Jewish community.
Indeed, as 1997 drew to a close, it became evident that what had once been the backbone of the special relationship--the most determined, most cohesive group on the American scene in its unbounded support of Israel--had been transformed into an increasingly fragmented community, fraught with dissent and discontent. Broad segments of the Jewish community, already predisposed to disengage from past affiliations with Israel, were feeling increasingly alienated from Israel as a result of its political, religious, cultural and ideological agenda. They were now prepared either to focus on the Israeli Government as the target of their criticism and punitive measures, or to detach themselves from at least some of their traditional forms of involvement in Israel's social and cultural life.
The effort of the UJA to defuse the crisis by promising to allocate, in 1998, $20 million to programs that promote pluralism and religious diversity in Israel (an increase of $5 million to the amount appropriated to these causes in 1997) is unlikely to drastically change a situation so charged with tension and frustration. Indeed, there is little doubt that beneath the facade of the specific provisions of the conversion law, the complex of issues at stake in 1997 and 1998 was inextricably linked to the growing perception of a significant majority of American Jews that an irreconcilable gap existed between their democratic and pluralistic world view and the climate of perceived intolerance and dogmatism that came to increasingly dominate religious and cultural life in Israel. Against this background, any renewed Israeli effort to mobilize the entire American Jewish community in support of its positions (in the religious or political field) is unlikely to win the automatic endorsement of most Jewish organizations and groups.36
Moreover, as the perceived uniqueness of the Israeli experience and legacy gradually fade, the possibility that growing numbers of American Jews (particularly young and Reform) will continue to drift into indifference should not be overlooked. Whether or not consideration of the conversion law is permanently suspended, the vision of incompatibility between the U.S. and Israel in terms of political culture and the basic rules of the democratic game is likely to further erode the bonds of sympathy, empathy and identification between Israel and broad segments of American Jewry.
In this respect, the intensifying crises over the conversion law and the course of Israel's foreign policy can help to clarify a whole range of basic cultural and religious issues pertaining to the essence of Jewish life in America. Specifically, in addition to increasing evidence of a diminishing interest in Israel or the part of Reform and Conservative Jews, recent surveys have indicated a continuous decline in Jewish donations earmarked for Israel. During the decade 1988-1997, the proportion of the Council of Jewish Federations (CJF) contributions allocated to Israel through the UJA declined from an average of 60 percent to 40 percent. Only 43 percent of American Jews contributed in 1997 to traditional Israeli charities, as compared with 49 percent who contributed to Israeli charities in 1990.
In the past, a functional consensus emerged on the priorities of the American Jewish community, with practically all segments of it agreeing that the need to support pro-Israeli activities abroad had priority over the need to support social-welfare programs at home. This unanimity has evaporated during the last decade, with the local federations becoming increasingly predisposed to bypass or constrain the UJA structure and to focus instead either on specific and non-governmental Israeli programs, or on domestic, non-Jewish causes.37
Indeed, as American Jews "continue to abandon areas of traditional Jewish concentration, many have reduced or severed their attachments to communal institutions" while increasing their donations to causes that "have little or nothing to do with Jews."38 This pattern has become particularly salient in the Sun Belt, which is one of the strongest magnets for Jewish migration. This social and demographic change was accompanied, during the last decade, by the growing interest that elite American charitable and cultural institutions have demonstrated in Jewish contributors. As Wertheimer points out, boards of museums, hospitals, universities and symphony orchestras, that in the not too distant past had placed strict quotas on Jewish presence, have accelerated their efforts to court wealthy Jews, and "Jews have been quick to respond at the direct expense of their contributions to Jewish and Israeli causes." (Only one-tenth of Jewish philanthropists limited their giving in 1997 to Jewish charities alone while one-fourth of them gave only to non-Jewish causes).39
Furthermore, of the contributors to Israel through the UJA during the last decade, only 25 percent were between the ages of 32 and 50, whereas 55 percent were between the ages of 60 and 70. The decline in the level of support for and identification with Israel has become most pronounced among members of the younger and non-Orthodox Jewish generation, who have become fully integrated into American society and culture. Evidently, for this young generation, events of great impact, such as the Holocaust and the establishment of the State of Israel, belong to the distant past: they do not invoke the same emotions and sentiments that profoundly affected the thinking and behavior of their parents and grandparents. (These findings are consistent with numerous sociodemographic surveys which found--in the early 1980s--that older and less educated respondents were more concerned about Israel and more supportive of Israel's policies than were young and more highly educated respondents).40 If we add to these indications of growing alienation from Israel the finding that only 12 percent of intermarried households contributed to the UJA in 1997, it is clear that the present crisis over the conversion law is but the tip of the iceberg. Beneath it, a process of profound change in the basic political and social attitudes, affiliations and allegiances of American Jewry continues to unfold. Memories of the Holocaust are receding, and the image of Israel as an island of democracy surrounded by a belligerent and monolithic Arab coalition appears increasingly outdated. At least some of the unifying historical legacies that formed the bond between the diaspora and Israel have eroded. Indeed, with the rate of intermarriage among American Jews reaching 52 percent at the beginning of the decade; with growing numbers of Jews viewing intermarriage as legitimate and less threatening than anti-Semitism;41 and with the disappearance of numerous urban Jewish centers along with their cohesive social and political infrastructure, the prospects of mobilizing today's highly fragmented Jewish community in support of Israel appear slim, unless the issue at stake is perceived as inextricably related to Israel's survival. It is entirely possible that an accelerated search for roots among the younger generation (whose possible beginning, among Jews between the ages of 18 and 29, is reported in the April 1998 survey of The Los Angeles Times) will inject new vigor and direction into Jewish life in America and in the process solidify the ties between American Jewry and Israel. Presently, however, it appears that the renewed interest of certain segments of the young and non-Orthodox community in Jewish culture and history is not associated with a renewed interest in Israel.
Viewed in this dynamic context, the conversion law should be defined as a trigger for accelerating the process of alienation from Israel on the part of much of the Reform (and, to a lesser extent, the Conservative) movement during the 1990s. (While broad segments of the Orthodox movement have become increasingly predisposed to criticize Israeli peace policies, this movement has remained, on the whole, highly committed to Israel and intimately involved in its cultural, social and political life).
Another manifestation of the transformation of the Jewish commitment can be seen in the sharp decline--during the last decade--in the level of contributions raised by pro-Israeli Political Actions Committees (PACs) in support of Congressional candidates in both the Republican and Democratic parties. Whereas, in 1987, pro-Israeli PACs--which were identified by the Almanac of Federal PACs as the largest and most effective organizations among the committees that "showed interest in foreign aid"--raised more than $1 million for Congressional contenders, in 1996 the figure dropped almost by half.42 There has also been a continuing decline in the level of contributions to the UJA. This picture of shifting alliances, priorities and commitments raises doubts as to the future effectiveness of the efforts by the Jewish components of the special relationship to limit the Administration's margin of maneuverability on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.43
Against the background of these processes of assimilation, fragmentation and alienation from Israel, which the debate over the conversion law is bound to accelerate, a major part of the institutionalized leadership of American Jewry, particularly the Conference of Presidents, has made an effort to create an image of continued Jewish solidarity, clinging tenaciously to its traditional posture of invariably supporting the Israeli Government. This image appears increasingly divorced from reality.
The combination of the political and cultural, or the strategic and religious facets of the controversy between American Jewry and the Israeli Government and Orthodox establishment has transformed a set of largely latent disagreements into an open and bitter feud. And while the full impact of this rift has yet to be felt by the groups and organizations involved in the special relationship, the possibility exists that in future confrontations with Washington, the Israeli Government will find itself in the unenviable position of having to face the Administration without its traditional infrastructure of support in American public opinion. The continued activity of the various PACs and AIPAC is likely to preserve--at least temporarily--the allegiance between some of the Jewish organizations involved in the special relationship and Capitol Hill (this allegiance was fully evident in March 1998, when 81 Senators signed an open letter to President Clinton, urging him not to issue any plan for bridging the gap between Israel and the Palestinian Authority). However, it is doubtful whether the strong Congressional base of support for Israel can remain totally and indefinitely oblivious to ongoing processes and developments that have transformed the very core and essence of the Jewish-Israeli framework, and have injected so much tension and strain into the American Jewish community. If this base of support indeed erodes, the pendulum will have swung back to the 1950s, when a divided Jewish leadership was incapable of-or unwilling to--prevent a determined U.S. Administration from resorting to punitive measures vis-a-vis the Israeli Government. In October 1953, the leadership of the American Jewish community was outspoken in its criticism of such Israeli actions as the Qibya raid. This enabled the Eisenhower Administration (which pursued, during its first term in office, an open and unequivocal pro-Arab course) to force the Ben-Gurion Government to suspend its plan to divert the Upper Jordan river at the B'not Ya'acov bridge. Three years later, most of the prominent leaders of the American Jewish community, primarily Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, were highly critical of Israel's war initiative in the Sinai peninsula, launched on October 29, 1956. Their opposition deprived Israel of a crucial safety net in its futile postwar bargaining with President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles. Will today's collapse of part of the infrastructure of Jewish support for Israel precipitate an equally assertive American posture? And will a determined American course provide the impetus for accomplishing, at long last, an objective that for half a century has eluded the architects of American diplomacy?



1. For a detailed analysis of these beliefs and attitudes see Abraham Ben-Zvi, The United States and Israel: The Limits of the Special Relationship (New York: Columbia University press, 1993), pp. 14-16. This study builds upon, updates and incorporates some of the findings of the author's earlier works on the subject. I wish to thank my colleagues at the Jaffee Center, as well as Dr. Yossi Shain for their stimulating comments on an earlier draft. I am also indebted to Eilon Yaavetz for his assistance in researching this study.
2. William B. Quandt, Decade of Decisions: American Policy Toward the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1967-1976. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977), p. 14. See also Bernard Reich, The United States and Israel Influence in the Special Relationship. (New York: Praeger, 1984), p. 183.
3. Eytan Gilboa, American Public Opinion toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1986), pp. 241-242.
4. Quoted by Steven L. Spiegel, The Other Arab-Israeli Conflict: Making America's Middle East Policy from Truman to Reagan (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1985), p. 296. See also Gilboa, American Public Opinion Toward Israel, p. 242; Hannan Bar-On, "Five Decades of American-Israeli Relations," in Anita Shapiro, ed., Independence: the First Fifty Years (Jerusalem: The Shazar Center for Jewish History, 1998), p. 395.
5. Ben-Zvi, The United States and Israel, pp. 101-102. See also Edward R.F. Sheehan, The Arabs, Israelis and Kissinger (New York: Quadrangle, 1976), pp. 254-257; David Pollock, The Politics of Pressure: American Arms and Israeli Policy Since the Six-Day War (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1982), pp 190-191; Matti Golan, The Secret Conversations of Henry Kissinger (New York: Quadrangle Books, 1976), p. 248.
6. Ben-Zvi, The United States and Israel, pp. 118. See also Raymond Cohen, "Israel and the Soviet-American Statement of October 1, 1997," Orbis 22(4) (Fall 1978), p. 624; Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, "The United States and Israel Since 1948: 'A Special Relationship'?" Diplomatic History 22 (2) (Spring 1998), p. 251.
7. Raymond Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation: American-Soviet Relations from Nixon to Reagan (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1985), p. 581; Ben-Zvi, The United States and Israel, p. 120.
6. Quoted by Garthoff, Detente and Confrontation, p. 581.
7. Ben-Zvi, The United States and Israel, p. 156.
8. Ibid, p. 183. See also Nimrod Novik, Encounter with Reality: Reagan and the Middle East (Boulder: Westview Press, 1985), pp. 80-81.
9. American Jewish Attitudes Toward Israel and the Peace Process: A Public Opinion Survey (conducted by Market Facts for the American Jewish Committee, New York, 1995), p. 2.
10. Ibid., pp. 5-6. See also Abraham Ben-Zvi, "Paradigm Lost? The Limits of the American-Israeli Special Relationship," Israel Affairs, 4 (2) (Winter 1997), pp. 13-14.
11. See the findings of the July 1996 survey, conducted by Penn and Schoen Associates for Israel Policy Forum. See also Lally Weymouth, "Unfair Standards of Compliance," The Washington Post, October 16, 1995, p. 21A.
12. Ben-Zvi, "Paradigm Lost?" pp. 14-15.
13. Ibid, p. 15.
14. Ibid, pp. 15-16.
15. Ibid, pp. 18-21.
16. American Jewish Attitudes Toward the American Role in the Peace Process, February 2-3, 1997. Conducted by Penn and Schoen Associates for Israel Policy Forum (New York: Israel Policy Forum, 1997), p. 1. See also, in this connection, Akiva Eldar, "Weizman is Good for Netanyahu," Ha'aretz, September 15, 1997, p. 3.
17. American Jewish Attitudes Toward the American Role in the Peace Process, September 1997. Conducted by Penn and Schoen Associates for Israel Policy Forum (New York: Israel Policy Forum, 1997), pp. 1, 3. See also Norman Kempster, "U.S. Jews Back Push for Israel Peace," The Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1997, p. A11.
18. Robert Lifton, Invigorating American Involvement in the Middle East Peace Process: An Introduction to the Report of the Council on Foreign Relations (New York: Council on Foreign Relations, June 27, 1997), p. 1.
19. Henry Siegman, "For the Mideast Peace Process, America Must Act," International Herald Tribune, July 4, 1997. Leslie Susser, "Jewish Groups Urge Clinton to Push for Peace," The Jerusalem Report, July 10, 1997, p. 8.
20. American Jewish Attitudes Toward Israel and the Peace Process, February 3-11, 1997, p. 13. See also Ma'ariv, September 29, 1997. (A report by Yitzhak Ben-Horin); Akiva Eldar, "Above the Jewish Head," Ha'aretz, September 17, 1997.
21. Calvin Goldscheider, Jewish Continuity and Change: Emerging Patterns in America (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1996), passim. See also Paul Ritterband, "Modern Times and Jewish Assimilation" in Robert M. Seltzer and Norman J. Cohen, eds., The Americanization of the Jews (New York: New York University Press, 1995), pp. 382-383; Eliahu Salpeter, "Back to Judaism," Ha'aretz, August 13, 1997; Jack Wertheimer, A People Divided: Judaism in Contemporary America (New York: Basic Books, 1993), pp. 58-59; Ha'aretz, February 10, 1998 (an article by Sera Berman), p. B2.
22. Wertheimer, A People Divided, p. 51. See also pp. 48-50. See also Goldscheider, Jewish Continuity and Change, passim; Yedioth Ahronoth, April 16, 1998 (an article by Abraham Burg).
23. Wertheimer, A People Divided, p. 51. See also pp. 48-50; Yedioth Ahronoth, April 16, 1998, p. 5.
24. American Jewish Attitudes Toward Israel and the Peace Process, February 3-11, 1997, p. 13. See also Jack Wertheimer, Charles S. Liebman and Steven M. Cohen, "How to Save American Jews," Commentary 101(1) (January 1996), p. 47; Yedioth Ahronoth, April 16, 1998, p. 4 (a report by Sever Plotzker).
25. See, for example, Michael W. Sonnenfeldt, "A Majority Favors Even-Handedness in the Middle East," Christian Science Monitor, November 19, 1997, p. 19. See also Shlomo Shamir, "The End of Goodwill," Ha'aretz, December 3, 1997, p. B3; Wertheimer, Liebman and Cohen, "How to Save American Jews," p. 47; Shamir, "The End of Goodwill." The data on American public opinion are taken from the Roper database of U.S national adult surveys. I wish to thank Lisa Ferraro Parmelee, Research Analyst at the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, for her assistance on this point.
26. Arthur Hertzberg, "Israel and the Diaspora: A Relationship Reexamined," Israel Affairs 2 (3-4) (Spring/Summer 1997), pp. 177-178. See also Egon Mayer, "From an External to an Internal Agenda," in The Americanization of the Jews, p. 429.
27. Hertzberg, "Israel and the Diaspora," p. 177.
28. Laurie Goodstein, "Feeling Abandoned by Israel, Many American Jews Grow Angry," The New York Times, November 16, 1997.
29. Stephen Franklin and Storer H. Rowley, "Israel Fears Eroding Support of American Jews," The Chicago Tribune, April 29, 1997.
30. Judith Miller, "Israel's Controversy Over Religion Affects Donations by Jews in the U.S.," The New York Times, November 17, 1997; Ha'aretz, April 27, 1998 (a report by Shahar Ilan).
31. Quoted by David Landau, "The Origins of Blackmail," Ha'aretz, May 1, 1997, p. B1.
32. J.J. Goldberg, "The Fighting Family," The Jerusalem Report, December 11, 1997, p. 34.
33. Ha'aretz, October 19, 1997 (a report by Shlomo Shamir).
34. Ibid.; Shain, The Rabin Lecture, p. 5.
35. See, for example, Ha'aretz, July 17, 1997 (a report by Shahar Ilan). See also Vince Beiser, "U.S. Rabbis Argue Over What is Judaism," The Jerusalem Report, April 17, 1997, p. 8; Gary Rosenblatt, "Fighting Fire with Fire," The Jewish Week, December 5, 1997, pp. 1, 19. See also, on the Orthodox movement in the U.S., Wertheimer, A People Divided, pp. 134-135.
36. Miller, "Israel's Controversy;" Yossi Klein Halevi, "The Battle for the Future," The Jerusalem Report, November 13, 1997, p. 56. I am indebted to Dr. Yossi Shain for his insights on this point. See also Shain, The Rabin Lecture, p.5.
37. Vince Beiser, "Slip Sliding Away," The Jerusalem Report January 23, 1997, p. 332; Miller, "Israel's Controversy;" Jack Wertheimer, "Politics and Jewish Giving," Commentary 104 (6) (December 1997), p. 33.
38. Wertheimer, "Politics and Jewish Giving," p. 33.
39. Ibid.
40. Gilboa, American Public Opinion toward Israel, p. 263.
41. See, in this connection, Ha'aretz, April 8, 1998. (A report by Shlomo Shamir); Yedioth Ahronoth, April 16, 1998 (an article by Abraham Burg).
42. Deborah Kalb and Jonathan D. Salant, "Donations by Pro-Israel PACs in Decline on Capitol Hill," Congressional Quarterly, March 16, 1996, pp. 719-720.
43. See, in this connection, Ha'aretz, February 24, 1998 (a report by Alisa Gurtmann).

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