Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s qualifications for the Supreme Court — she was appointed by President Barack Obama this week to replace the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens — will be judged by the Senate as part of the confirmation process. No doubt Jewish groups with very different positions on church-state questions and issues such as abortion and homosexual rights will weigh in when deliberations begin.
While some (too few) American Jews will celebrate Jerusalem Day next Tuesday night and Wednesday, the 28th day of Iyar, marking the reunification of the holy city during the 1967 War, Israel’s capital remains the subject of controversy among the nations of the world, and much closer to home.
If you believe the conventional wisdom, nothing good is likely to come out of the Israeli-Palestinian “proximity talks” that will begin as soon as this week under the auspices of U.S. special negotiator George Mitchell.
There’s some solid logic behind that perception, but there is also a danger: in the Middle East, hopelessness is a contagion that can only result in more bloodshed and misery to populations that have known too much of both for generations.
The leadership of the Rabbinical Council of America expressed great pride in passing a resolution this week among hundreds of member rabbis, without opposition, on the delicate and contentious issue of women’s leadership roles in the Orthodox synagogue and community. One could attribute the achievement to the two months spent by the committee in laying the groundwork for consensus; a cynic might argue the resolution was approved overwhelmingly because it was so pareve. There’s truth in both points of view.
There’s been a lot of talk in the media about the Obama administration’s push for indirect “proximity” talks between Israel and the Palestinians, with special envoy George Mitchell serving as facilitator, referee and cheerleader, and about Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reluctant agreement to participate.
You hear much less about how the Palestinians and the Arab states haven’t been much help to the administration’s faltering efforts.
American Jews, and Israel, have long taken pride in the fact that support for the Jewish state is a bipartisan issue among political leaders in this country. Whether a Democrat or Republican was in the White House for the last three decades, Israel was viewed as a strong ally in every sense of the word.
But there are cracks in the façade of late, perhaps inevitable in an age of increasing partisanship in Washington, yet troubling nonetheless and in need of attention.