Selling Oslo to the Jewish Community

(Tablet) Jennifer Roskies - Following the rollout of the Oslo Accords 25 years ago, one of the Rabin government's central challenges was convincing those who had the most at stake - Israelis, and those who feel their lives wedded to Israel's - that embarking upon the Oslo process was a risk worth taking. The efforts to meet this challenge eroded the very ties binding Israel and diaspora Jewry. In 1993, having previously worked at the Israeli Consulate for four years, I was asked to translate into English Prime Minister Rabin's speech to the annual convention of Jewish communities from across North America, known as the General Assembly, or GA, being hosted in Montreal. Eitan Haber, Rabin's Chief of Staff, sat at a desk, removed two writing pads from his briefcase, handed me one, and began to write. When he got to the bottom of the page, he tore it off, passed it to me, and I began to translate. From Haber's very first paragraphs, I realized the speech's main purpose. Those selling Oslo plainly recognized that Jewish opposition, both outside Israel and within, to the abrupt Israeli policy change, was a serious obstacle which must be overcome. Concern over evidence of subterfuge by Arafat and the newly-formed Palestinian Authority was dismissed as anti-peace. In looking back at those early Oslo days, what is so striking is that world support for Israel was unwavering. Who could ever have foreseen a time when that support would no longer be a safe bet, but that Israel would become a flashpoint issue in synagogue congregations, not to mention campuses, where students and faculty increasingly come under assault for supporting Israel or for even affirming Israel as a component of their Jewish identities. In working to undermine a near monolithic, full-throated concern for Israel's security among American Jews, replacing it with talking points designed to second-guess their own interests, Israel's new foreign policy opened a trap door, pushing Jewish supporters to make common cause with their own adversaries. One can see clearly how this led to the discord now seen between Israel and American Jewry. The writer works at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs as chief of staff to its president.

2018-09-14 00:00:00

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