Rabbi Haskel Lookstein has voiced concern over the Obama Administration’s latest assault on Israel, following the reelection of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu last week.
In an email to congregants on Wednesday, Lookstein, the spiritual leader of New York City’s famed Kehilath Jeshurun synagogue and principal of the prestigious Ramaz school, said that while “I try to steer clear of politics in my sermons and in messages to the community. There are times, however, when an exception should be made.”
“One of those times is now,” the rabbi continued, “when reports are coming from the administration in Washington of a need for reassessing the Israel/United States relationship.” Lookstein, who was ranked by Newsweek in 2008 as the most influential Orthodox pulpit rabbi in the United States, followed with a full-throated endorsement of an article by syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, who argues that “there is zero chance” that the right climate for the establishment of a Palestinian state will come “now or even soon.”
Krauthammer concludes, “In the interim, I understand the crushing disappointment of the Obama administration and its media poodles at the spectacular success of the foreign leader they loathe more than any other on the planet. The consequent seething and sputtering are understandable, if unseemly. Blaming Netanyahu for banishing peace, however, is mindless.”
Lookstein said Krauthammer’s article “presents with utmost clarity an assessment of the reassessment. It deserves the attention of all of us.”
The commentary, first published by The Washington Post, follows a week of harsh criticisms, veiled threats and alleged media leaks by Obama Administration officials directed towards Israel and its newly reelected Prime Minister Netanyahu. The attacks were largely focused on comments Netanyahu made while on the campaign trail about the establishment of a Palestinian state, and Israeli Arabs.
The escalation of rhetoric led to pushback from a number of leading Jewish figures as well as pro-Israel activists and congressional leaders, including some that have traditionally been aligned with the administration.
Writing for The Algemeiner on Thursday, Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, who has been critical of Netanyahu in recent weeks, said he is “even more troubled” by the “statements now coming out of the White House calling for a reassessment of policy toward Israel.”
Foxman wrote, “Let me be clear: I wish Mr. Netanyahu would do more to solidify relations with Israel’s ally in America and to stand up to those in Israel who seek to make impossible a Palestinian state. None of this, however, justifies what we are hearing from the Obama Administration. Their reactions raise deeper questions about their intentions and perspectives.”
Earlier in the week, the dovish American Jewish Committee head, David Harris, said in an interview with The Jerusalem Post that “The fact that the outcome of a Democratic election in Israel seems to be of great concern” to the Obama Administration “is cause for deep anxiety and puzzlement.”
“Whatever the failings of the prime minister, the way this is unfolding runs completely contrary to the spirit of US-Israel relations,” Harris said. “The US appears to have a reasoned interest in prolonging the crisis.”