Monday, December 10, 2012

Mahmoud Abbas's U.N. speech needs cleansing

"Without a Palestinian state,” says Australian Prime Minister Bob Carr, as quoted by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “there can’t be peace in this region.”

What “peace in this region” can there be if the leader of the so-called state of Palestine demonizes Israel in front of the General Assembly of the United Nations?

Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing” and forced expulsion of the Arabs from Israel in 1948.

Strange. That’s exactly what the Arab world intended for Israel from the instant the U.N. approved its creation as a state of its own.

It is fair game for Australia and five other developed nations to criticize Israel for apparent retaliation of the GA’s vote to recognize “Palestine” as an independent state. However, they opened themselves up to accusations of bias for letting Abbas get away with his brazen lies before an assemblage that was formed to solve the world’s turf battles through reason and fair play.

Carr and the other leaders - from Britain, France, Spain, Denmark and Sweden - probably did not even read Abbas’s speech before they summoned Israel’s ambassadors to register their anger with Israel’s decision to build 3,000 housing units in the West Bank.

Abbas lost all credibility when he declared: “The Palestinian people, who miraculously recovered from the ashes of Al-Nakba of 1948, which was intended to extinguish their being and to expel them in order to uproot and erase their presence, which was rooted in the depths of history.”

“Nakba” has been traditionally translated to mean “catastrophe.”

He then accused Israel of “one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history.”

History contradicts Abbas. Israel accepted a U.N. partition plan to allow Jews and Arabs to live in separate enclaves…in peace. Instead, Arabs from within the partitioned areas and from five Arab nations attacked Israel.

As Israel held its ground, many Arabs fled for a variety of reasons, according to historians. Their leaders demanded they move out so Arab troops could conquer Israel, and the Arab inhabitants would return a few days later. Others understandably feared being caught in the cross-fire.

Perhaps Jewish extremists drove some Arabs out, but this has yet to be proven. If indeed they did, the Arabs provided them with the opportunity by initiating the war from the outset.

No doubt that some Israelis were pleased that a large number of Arabs fled, yet this was not their responsibility.

A half-century later, the Israelis offered the Palestinian Authority an independent state, but then-PA leader Yasser Arafat turned it down and facilitated a war against Israel.

Abbas likely bypassed the negotiating process because he is afraid that powerful blocs among his people are demanding more - the “right of return,” which will mean flooding Israel with 5 million refugees.

Granted, Netanyahu authorized settlement expansion on the West Bank, which gave Abbas an excuse to ignore negotiations.

In the midst of this 64-year span of events, a 30-year-old Israeli colonel known as “Yoni” died in 1976 while leading the rescue of 100 Israeli hostages held in Uganda by a group of Arab and German gunman. His brother is now Israel’s prime minister.

“Extinguish their being?…Expel them?“ First Abbas’s associates cause the death of Netanyahu’s brother, and all these years later Abbas casts Israel as the villain. One needs not to have lost a brother to these creeps or even live in Israel to take offense with Abbas‘s version of history.



Sunday, December 19, 2010

A slur too far

John Cook and Wael Elasady do not stop with legitimate criticism of a Jewish-related issue. They openly slur the Jews.

Elasady compared Israel to Sudan’s genocide of Darfur’s people when he joined with others who assailed Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski for trading with Israel.

Cook, a Republican honcho in Texas, dragged the tussle over a Jewish speaker of the state House to a new low when he claimed that Christian conservatives “do the best jobs over all,” asked a reporter her religion, assured that Jews “are some of my best friends” and proclaimed his “favorite person” - hint, born of immaculate conception - to be a Jew.

Both occasions surface within a few days of each other, but attracted little attention - unlike Helen Thomas’ latest rantings, which surprised few people.

The Oregon flap stems from the governor’s act of signing a Memorandum of Understanding between Oregon and Israel last Oct. 27 “to develop and strengthen economic, industrial, technological and commercial cooperation between” them, according to Kulongoski’s press release.

The Web site and The Vanguard, the student newspaper at Portland State University, reported earlier this month that an organization, called Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights, sent the governor an open letter condemning Israel’s occupation of its territories and “racism” toward Arabs who live in Israel and the territories.

Kulongoski stood his ground. In an e-mail to AUPHR, his communications director, Jodi Sherwood, wrote, “The governor believes that the Memorandum is in the best interest of the people of Oregon. Israel is a strong and democratic friend of Oregon and the United States. This agreement will build on our existing trade relationship with Israel, open up new opportunities to share information and foster commercial ties in areas that are vital to Oregon’s economic future.”

In response, Elasady, who is president of Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, said according to these publications that Oregon’s refusal to conduct business with Sudan is precedent for not doing business with states that violate international law.

Sudan? That’s another blood libel. We all know that Sudan murders, rapes and expels hundreds of thousands of Darfurians who cannot defend themselves. Israel has made mistakes, but this ongoing war with the Arab world was thrust on it more than a century ago.

Deep in the heartlessness of Texan John Cook, the magazine Texas Observer’s web site reported in early December that Cook had sent an e-mail to Rebecca Williamson - both are members of the State Republican Executive Committee - explaining his opposition to retaining Joe Straus of San Antonio, who is Jewish, as House speaker. He wrote, “We elected a House with Christian, conservative values. We now want a true Christian, conservative running it.”

Cook dug a deeper hole for himself during a phone call with a reporter, Abby Rapoport of the Texas Observer, who quoted him as saying, “When I got involved in politics, I told people I wanted to put Christian conservatives in leadership positions. I want to make sure that a person I’m supporting is going to have my values. It’s not anything about Jews and whether I think their religion is right or Muslims and whether I think their religion is right…I got into politics to put Christian conservatives into office. They’re the people that do the best jobs over all.”

If Christian conservatives “do the best jobs, neither the U.S. Constitution nor Texas constitution allows a religious preference. Both forbid a religious test for anyone to hold public office.”

When he asked Rapoport if she is a Christian, he said, “I just need to know who I’m talking to so I can understand…The holy spirit is in the people who are Christian.” Rapoport is a Jewish name, and a look at her photo suggests she can be taken for Jewish.

He also said of Jews: “They’re some of my best friends.” Finally, “My favorite person that’s ever been on this earth is a Jews. How can they possibly think that if Jesus Christ is a Jew, and he’s my favorite person that’s ever been on this earth?”

Others who criticized Straus made comments that were too vague to be labeled anti-Semitic. Cook does not sound like a mean-spirited person, but his attitudes amount to anti-Semitism. He believes that good government requires good Christians, which certainly excludes Jews and adherents of other religions, atheists and agnostics. It would also cover Christians whom he could never accept as his kind of Christian.

Cook and Elasady may be different in a number of ways, but both do not know what they are talking about, and do not care. Jews are hardly the only people vulnerable to harm because of their attitudes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A reason for the season - for all of us

As Kramer from “Seinfeld” might say, it’s a Chanukah miracle!!!

The word “Christmas” was removed from the 15-foot-high “Christmas Village” sign welcoming visitors to a Christmas market in front of Philadelphia’s City Hall by order of Managing Director Richard Negrin on Nov. 29. Some city workers and visitors griped about a religious sign on public property.

Come Chanukah eve, Dec. 1, Mayor Michael Nutter countermanded the order so Christmas could become part of the sign once again. Next morning, 25 days before the big day, a Philadelphia Daily News headline proclaimed: “Nutter saves Christmas!”

Each year we must contend with such episodes. After 2010 years, maybe it is time for a meeting of the spiritual minds to offer understanding and determine how the holiday season can bring us together.

I have observed many good friends beam as they prepared Christmas decorations at the officer or smile broadly as they wished me “Merry Christmas.” Christmas is important to millions of Americans and I have in the past expended efforts to help my Christians friends enjoy it.

However, lovers of Christmas need to understand how the holiday season affects others. At the very least, the remainder of the non-Christmas celebrating world is overwhelmed with reminders of a holiday that is foreign to us. Jews in particular do not mention Jesus in our religious traditions, and so we feel left out of a holiday that appears to be celebrated by almost everyone we encounter.

Historically, Jews have legitimate reason to be downright bitter about all Christian holidays. Christianity gave us not only Christmas and Easter but also the Crusades and the Inquisition, and it laid the foundation for the Holocaust.

Many Jews have personally experienced anti-Semitism. A Jew contending with a hostile environment could be subjected to nasty treatment for the first 11 months of the year, and then finds that people around him will be indignant if he does not catch the holiday spirit.

I fully understand that Christianity has evolved into a force that is far more civil as contrasted to earlier times, though it has taken some troubling turns. I find that gracious, kindhearted Christians are more the rule than the exception. The United States has been welcoming to the Jewish people, so I figure I can tolerate some discomfort.

Most Christians I know do not treat me as an outsider and celebrate Christmas because they love it, not as an instrument to denigrate other religions. I take their “Happy Hanukkah” greetings as a well-intentioned gesture to recognize the validity of Judaism. At the same time, they may not understand that we do not recognize Hanukkah as an important holiday.

I have found that one way to reward deeds of friendship is to make their holidays more joyous. Years ago, I spelled a woman assigned to work Christmas so that she could join her family for the holiday dinner. At the office, I do not complain about Christmas decorations or holiday talk because I figure, to paraphrase a song title, Christians just want to have fun.

I was initially against the Christmas Village at City Hall, but it occurred to me that other religious symbols are allowed on public property - most notably for an annual Menorah-lighting ceremony held near Independence Hall.

The local religious wars seemed to escalate a tad when a co-worker wore a button on her blouse stating: “It is okay to wish me a Merry Christmas.” This refers to the neutral practice of wishing others “Happy Holidays.” It is understandable that some people innocently greet others with “Merry Christmas” out of habit, but there are those who deliberately apply the greeting to those they know who do not celebrate Christmas. I believe that most people fall into the first category and should not be condemned for an honest mistake.

Maybe we should anoint a panel of wise, sensible folks to mediate holiday disputes. On a national or local basis, or both, a group of sages of different religions - imams, priests, rabbis and ministers - could convene in good fellowship and devise a list of do’s and don’t’s for the holiday season. Most of all, they can offer a reason for the season in which we can all delight.

I know many fine statements have been made that can qualify for this message, but they escape me for the moment. I must continue to search.

Meanwhile, I wish you all peace on earth and goodwill to men…and women.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Arab fears undermine future of Middle East

It is beneficial that Arab and Israeli leaders agree for once. Or is it just once?

As The New York Times and other media report, the release of state secrets from WikiLeaks reveal how Iran’s nuclear preparations have terrified Arab leaders, and some have been urging strong action, including a military strike. Israel has been more than open about these possibilities.

Arab leaders repeated their concerns in private, and they wanted someone else to do it - such as Israel or the United States.

No wonder we consistently fail to make progress on any Middle East issues. Arabs who might agree with Israeli positions nonetheless keep silent. As the Times explains it, “Publicly, these Arab states held their tongues, for fear of a domestic uproar and the retributions of a powerful neighbor. Privately, they clamored for strong action, by someone else.”

God forbid that an Arab publicly concede that Israel is right about something. Arab leaders have left sufficient hints about their real feelings about Iran, but it is no surprise that they would say one thing publicly and the complete opposite privately. If they concur with Israel on how to respond to Iran, what is the possibility that they agree with Israel on other crucial issues?

Many Arabs probably are not obsessed with Israel’s destruction; support Israel’s treatment of Gaza and its positions on a peace deal; and believe that Hamas should release captured Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit. Because violent extremists control the situation, they are simply too frightened to say so publicly.

To be sure, there are nonetheless plenty of Arabs who are virulently against Israel.

Though Arab fears are understandable, their approach undermines any prospect of resolving the many obstacles that already exist. Their silence, or their opposing positions, drains Israel of credibility when its representatives try to justify Israeli actions.

Israel is either left alone out there, or Arab criticisms challenge its positions. People who might otherwise back Israel’s actions will be turned off to it because of deceptive Arab responses.

When the truth comes out, Israel’s position is strengthened, as Israeli officials have emphasized. Now the world knows that Arab leaders were drawing the same conclusions about Iran’s plans as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other Israeli officials.

Besides bin Zayed’s “Ahmadinejad is Hitler” statement, King Hamad of Bahrain said, “That program must be stopped. The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it.” A Saudi Arabian ambassador relayed this message from King Abdullah: “He told you to cut off the head of the snake.” Maj. Gen. Mohammad al-Assar, assistant to the Egyptian minister of defense, reportedly “stated that Egypt views Iran as a threat to the region.”

In reality, bin Zayed, Hamad, Abdullah and al-Assar were united with Israel privately, but not openly. After all, how could they lend credibility to a people who oppress the poor Palestinians, seek to dominate the Middle East and are the cause - with no exceptions - of all the problems plaguing the Arab world?

Israel and its Arab neighbors must operate in unison to resolve the Middle East’s challenges. Many of these issues reached crisis level long ago. Israel and the United States cannot be expected to save this corner of the world themselves, especially when weighted down by those who should be their allies.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A 'religious test' in Texas?

Texas can boast the heroes of the Alamo, Sam Houston’s victory at San Jacinto that gave Texas its independence, World War II hero Audie Murphy and three presidents.

Hopefully, Peter Morrison and Ray Myers do not reflect today’s average Texan. Morrison and Myers exposed themselves as sloppy, insensitive nitwits, if not rabid anti-Semites, by raising concerns about a Jewish politician’s fitness to hold public office.

If Myers and Morrison believe that a Jew should be barred from some or all public offices, they are defying Article VI of our nation’s Constitution. It states: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

As Texas newspapers describe the matter, state House Speaker Joe Straus was subject to several e-mails emphasizing his religion in the midst of a furious re-election contest for the speaker’s post. State representatives Warren Chisum and Rep. Ken Paxton are challenging Straus on grounds that he is not conservative enough. All three are Republicans.

Morrison and Myers were publicly identified as prominent writers of some e-mails, but other writers are not publicly known. Morrison, who is treasurer of the Hardin County Republican Party, wrote in his Nov. 11 newsletter that Straus’ rabbi is involved with Planned Parenthood.

He also wrote, “Both Rep. Warren Chisum and Rep. Ken Paxton, who are Christians and true conservatives, have risen to the occasion to challenge Joe Straus for leadership.”

Myers, who chairs the Kaufman County Tea Party, praised another Republican lawmaker, Rep. Bryan Hughes, as “a Christian conservative who decided not to be pushed around by the Joe Straus thugs.”

Thugs? A remnant of the Jewish Defense League?

Myers subsequently told a Dallas Morning News reporter that “it never crossed my mind” that Straus is Jewish when he wrote the e-mail. “We’re going after the RINOs (Republican in name only),” he said.

Morrison sent the News an e-mail stating, “I was simply making factual statements about Rep. Chisum and Rep. Paxton.” He added that he opposed Straus on the basis of issues, not religion.

Their efforts to clarify their original statements were pitiful. A reasonable person could conclude from their words that they object to a Jew holding a leadership post in the House. However, their comments can be interpreted in a broader context.

Whatever these idiots sought to do, they were reckless to even hint or suggest that Straus’s religion disqualified him. It is certainly worse if they meant this.

Their ideas did not influence anyone with power. Both Chisum and Paxton quickly disavowed these thoughts. “These sorts of attacks on a man’s religion have absolutely no place in the race for Speaker,” Chisum wrote in a statement. “We certainly have our differences, but they are differences of public policy and organization of the House.”

While Texas is largely conservative with a Christian religious fervor, Paxton and Chisum did the right thing. It would be no surprise if they personally hate Straus, but it is not because he is Jewish.

Morrison and Myers still owe the public an explanation and a profuse apology. It begs the question if Morrison believes all Jews share the same political attitudes. It is true that many Jews are pro-choice on abortion, but Orthodox Jews and even some who are less observant oppose abortion.

Straus belongs to a Reform synagogue in San Antonio, Temple Beth-El, which was founded in 1874. Reform Jews are generally liberal, so it should be no surprise if Senior Rabbi Barry H. D. Block would be involved with a pro-choice organization - just as if an Orthodox rabbi participates in an anti-abortion group’s activities.

When the dense duo praises Straus’ enemies as Christians and conservatives, that takes some explaining: To apply Western parlance, is the only good liberal a dead liberal? Are all Jews and non-Christians liberals? That begs the next question: Is the only good Jew and non-Christian a dead Jew and a dead non-Christian?

Let’s not give Myers and Morrison the benefit of the doubt. We could excuse this as warped language, but they must explain this concern if they do not want to be branded as vile anti-Semites.

They must understand the obstacles that Jews and other minority groups overcame before laws were changed and the public became more accepting of their place in government and many other areas.

I recall from past readings that delegates to the Constitutional Convention added the clause barring a “religious test” for public office during the period that the Pennsylvania legislature considered adding such a test. The delegates did not openly clarify their reasons for this clause because of the secrecy clouding the convention’s deliberations.

Maryland barred Jews from holding public office until 1826. Since then, Marylanders have elected a Jewish governor and the Speaker of the House of Delegates from 1979 to 1986, Benjamin L. Cardin, is Jewish. Cardin is now Maryland’s junior U.S. senator.

Do Morrison and Myers want to turn Texas into pre-1926 Maryland? They still have us wondering.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Transit links Jews in more ways than one

The reinvented National Museum of American Jewish History features this inspired advantage: A visitor can readily find it, and swiftly reach it.

The museum, which traces the Jewish experience in the United States, is located at the same corner as Philadelphia’s Fifth Street SEPTA subway station and a stop for numerous SEPTA buses; one block from where a dozen New Jersey Transit buses stop, for southern New Jersey travel; three blocks from a train station for South Jersey commuting; and six blocks from a SEPTA commuter rail station with one train route that runs to Trenton, where a rider can connect to a Manhattan-bound train.

Many of these lines link to the city’s 30th Street Amtrak station two miles west of the museum. SEPTA is the transit system for the Philadelphia area and PATCO is a train route jointly operated by Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The museum moved from a small facility on Nov. 14 to a new home around the corner in a 100,000-square-foot facility at the southeast corner of Fifth and Market streets less than a block from Independence Hall. After an extravagant ceremony on Nov. 13 and 14, the museum opens to the public this Friday.

Access to public transit this extensive, or even a fraction this advantageous, has steadily gone the way of the dinosaur for Jewish facilities during the last four or five decades, not to mention public facilities in general.

As a frequent patron of public transit, I could not help but notice the access to subways, trains, etc., to the museum. Of course, the museum was built there because of its proximity to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.

Public transportation is important for Jewish connections. It is no coincidence that we are less engaged in Jewish causes and activities as more Jews have relocated to the suburbs. Among positive developments, transit links between Jewish communities have grown, especially in the Northeast. However, many transit agencies are raising their fares, and Jewish facilities are more often than not located in spots that are inconvenient for those who depend on public transportation.

The museum’s proximity to so many transit links is obviously a happy coincidence, and we should hope that more Jewish facilities model their locations on Philadelphia’s Jewish museum. With the current pattern of Jewish movement out of the big cities, new facilities to serve them have risen up closer to their new homes.

Synagogues, community centers and day schools do not require the comprehensive access available at Fifth and Market streets, but they do need a reasonable level of public transportation. These facilities are often placed in isolated areas, and public transit there either does not exist or is severely limited. A bus may stop in front of a Jewish facility on weekdays, but not at night or weekends. Some suburban facilities are convenient to reach by transit, but those places are too frequently the exception rather than the rule.

Decades earlier, urban living and extensive transportation provided the glue that held the Jewish community together. One could attend synagogue by walking or, if necessary, taking a bus. Those who live in the suburbs usually must drive…on the Sabbath, yet.

Interestingly, visitors to the two main Jewish museums in Manhattan must negotiate an obstacle course. Both are located four miles or more from Penn Station and Grand Central Station, and each museum is situated six blocks from the nearest subway stop. A Holocaust museum planned for Hollywood, Fla., was to be located more than a mile east of the Tri-County rail line that runs from Palm Beach to Miami; transit is otherwise sporadic in that area.

The Philadelphia museum’s access exemplifies the extensive rail network, especially in the Northeast, that allows area Jews to reach it with little trouble. It is obvious that the museum could be a large draw for Jews from New York City and its suburbs.

A number of ways are available to reach Philadelphia, but the most common means is commuter rail from Manhattan’s Penn Station to Market East Station in Philadelphia, six blocks west of the museum. Visitors from New York can take a New Jersey Transit train to Trenton and switch to a SEPTA train bound for center city.

Long Islanders and New Jerseyans can readily connect. A family from Short Hills or Teaneck in New Jersey can ride a local train to the Secaucus Junction (between Newark and Manhattan) and switch to a New Jersey Transit train bound for Trenton. A family from Great Neck or Merrick can take the Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station to catch an NJT train. It is also doable for those living in Westchester and Connecticut if they do not mind spending 20 minutes on the subway connecting Grand Central to Penn Station.

The museum’s management might wish to consider promoting its access to transportation.

The major transit agencies in the Northeast have tossed in obstacles in the form of higher fares, including NJT, SEPTA and New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority. NJT’s fares rose sharply last May 1. A round-trip from Trenton to New York shot up from $21.50 to $31. Coupled with SEPTA’s lesser increases a few months later, the combined round trip from Philadelphia to Manhattan increased from $37.50 to $49. Ironically, Amtrak prices have dipped, though not enough.

Rising fares will only deter people from using public transportation, and local service should be expanded in communities that need it. Meanwhile, we can be grateful for the system that now exists, especially in the Northeast. May a higher authority forbid that it should turn into a museum piece.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Using power shift to aid Israel

Eric Cantor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Allen West missed a fitting opportunity to challenge President Obama’s inconsistent approach to Israel.

The occasion emerged in early November when the president clashed with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once again over East Jerusalem housing.

Well, the Cantor/Ros-Lehtinen/West crowd has two years to assure Israelis and the rest of the world that many Americans staunchly support Israel. In January, they will join at least 238 other Republicans who will run the U.S. House of Representatives.

Actually, while I was in the midst of composing this commentary, Cantor sort of spoke up on Wednesday, Nov. 10, when he told Netanyahu that his party will serve as “a check” on Obama, and the following Monday Cantor claimed he was only referring to domestic policies.

He was trying to quell accusations that he was interfering with Obama’s relationships with foreign leaders. If Cantor meant domestic matters, why did he mention it to a foreign leader in the first place?

The incident raises concerns about opposition leaders undermining the president on foreign policy. It depends on the situation and, without delving too deeply into arguments, I think it is entirely appropriate for Cantor and his colleagues to bolster Israel’s role in the ever-twisting Middle East entanglement.

Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House for the time being, is expected to become House majority leader. Ros-Lehtinen, who represents parts of Miami and Miami Beach, could rise from ranking Republican member to chairperson of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Israel’s supporters here need to take full advantage of Cantor/Ros-Lehtinen/West’s strong sympathies for Israel to compensate for President Obama’s inconsistencies and pressure the Arab world to deal with Israel in a good-faith manner.

Most American Jews are fully behind Obama’s domestic policies, but we are at the very least confused by his approach to Israel. The president has been helpful in some ways, but at times he has been downright hostile to Israel. A slight number of Jews have called Obama anti-Semitic.

Cantor, Ros-Lehtinen and West, a new congressman, are now in a commanding position to introduce legislation and communicate tough viewpoints to criticize not only Arab leaders but also the president when he is out of line. The media will take Cantor, Ros-Lehtinen and West far more seriously in January because of the GOP’s control of the House.

Ros-Lehtinen, whose congressional district comprises large Jewish and Cuban populations, is a stalwart backer of Israel. On Jan. 9, 2009, for example, she co-authored a resolution with Democrat Howard Berman “recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself,” according to a news release issued by her office.

West, who will represent a neighboring congressional district, has expressed even stronger pro-Israel views which should cheer hardliners. He even hired Fort Lauderdale radio host Joyce Kaufman as his chief of staff, but she subsequently decided to stay in Florida. Kaufman, whose father was Jewish, has chided Jews who are twice the Jew she is…biologically, that is…for voting for Obama.

Most Jews would vehemently oppose their domestic positions, especially those of West, but we might as well take advantage of their newly found clout to shore up Israel’s legitimacy.

To give the likes of Cantor, Ros-Lehtinen and West some rare credit, they should recognize that their pro-Israel positions will not help them much in terms of actual votes. Few Jews will change their registration to Republican.

However, Republican positions on Israel please conservative Jews who contribute to political campaigns.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is believed to be emboldened by the Republican takeover of the House. He signaled as much when he responded defiantly to Obama over construction of 1,300 new housing units in East Jerusalem.

After the housing plans were presented, The Los Angeles Times reported Obama to say during his Asian tour: “This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations, and I’m concerned that we’re not seeing each side make that extra effort involved to get a breakthrough. Each of these incremental steps ends up breaking trust.”

Netanyahu evidently believes the Republicans have his back, which might be why he said in response: “Jerusalem is not a settlement. It is the capital of the state of Israel. Israel sees no connection between the diplomatic process and the planning and building process in Jerusalem.”

House Republicans can take legitimate steps to advocate for Israel. They might as well start with engaging in the current flap by backing Netanyahu’s position.

While they are on the subject, they can ask the Arabs to justify being given control of East Jerusalem. The Arabs have yet to explain in any satisfactory way why they need it.

Among other issues, the Republicans can press for strong efforts on Iran, hostile actions and threats from Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the release of Israeli Sgt. Gilad Shalit, who is presumably being held by Hamas in Gaza.

Some Democrats in Congress, notably Sen. Charles Schumer and Rep. Anthony Weiner, both of New York, were blunt in criticizing Obama over Israel in the past.

As the balance of power shifts, the Jewish community will probably have political leaders with clout solidly in Israel’s corner.