Netanyahu Widens Rift among Jews in America

Long before the latest election in Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu was a polarizing figure among American Jews. But even many of his supporters said they were appalled at his last-minute bid to mobilize Jewish voters by warning that Arabs were going to the polls in droves, and his renunciation of a two-state solution to the Palestinian crisis.

Netanyahu’s party won the election and cheers from hard-line American Jews. But in interviews this past week, rabbis, scholars and Jews from across the country and a range of denominations said that with his campaign tactics, he had further divided American Jews and alienated even some conservatives, who had already suspected that he was more committed to building settlements than building peace with the Palestinians.

New York Times writes; “Even with Netanyahu’s postelection interview walking back his statements against a two-state plan for peace with Palestinians, many Jews say they are worried that the most lasting outcome of the elections will be the increasing isolation of Israel – not only around the world but also from the younger generation of American Jews. Unlike their parents and grandparents, these Jews have grown up in an era when Israel is portrayed not as a heroic underdog but as an oppressive occupier, and many of them tend to see Netanyahu as out of step with their views on Israel and the world.

Aaron Voldman, 27, who recently returned to Wisconsin after a year studying on a fellowship in Israel, said he was still ‘‘outraged’’ at Netanyahu’s campaign, especially his election-eve pledge that there would be no Palestinian state if he was re-elected.

‘‘It is the only viable option to secure peace in the Holy Land — how could he, in good conscience, just write it off?’’ said Voldman, who like many Israelis speaks of Netanyahu using his nickname. ‘‘Bibi is not committed to doing what needs to be done to secure peace and justice. The Palestinians did not have a willing partner in his administration during the last round of negotiations.’’

Anguish over Israel, after intensifying through the final days of the campaign, is now stirring up discussion among American Jews online, at synagogues from coast to coast and even among some rabbis and Jewish organizational leaders who understand of Netanyahu’s statements that he is above all concerned about Israel’s security. They say they have watched as American Jews pull away from Israel, alienated by the intractable conflict with the Palestinians and the expansion of Jewish settlements.