Correspondence With My Congresswoman

by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

It is always important to keep in contact with our members of Congress. Do not take it for granted that they understand your feelings regarding any issue.

As you may know, my Congresswoman in Illinois’ 9th District, Jan Schakowsky, who represents a large Jewish constituency, is an avid supporter of our President. This became quite public over the battle regarding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech before Congress. As she writes in her recent letter to me, in spite of strong protests from her constituency, the Congresswoman continues to stand by her position.

 

Dear Rabbi Lefkowitz:

Thank you for continuing our discussion about the current relationship between Israel and the United States. As you know, I strongly support the state of Israel and its right to defend itself, and, based on many conversations with him, I also believe that President Obama shares our views.

The special relationship between the United States and Israel is very important to me. While our nations may not always agree on everything – as seen with the recent disagreement over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated between the P5+1 countries and Iran – I believe that our relationship will endure and continue to grow. That is despite some of the actions of President Netanyahu, including his decision to speak before Congress without going through normal channels to speak out against the President's policies.

President Obama is working to conclude a new 10-year Memorandum of Understanding for foreign military aid, to increase missile defense funding, and to accelerate critical interdiction capabilities to prevent attacks on Israel through tunnels and other means. I know from my own conversations with the White House that they are eager to hear specific recommendations from Israel and others on how to protect Israel's security.

As always, I am glad to have the chance to hear your views and look forward to hearing your own recommendations about how we can make sure that Israel remains safe and secure.

Sincerely,
Jan Schakowsky
Member of Congress

 

MY RESPONSE TO THE CONGRESSWOMAN'S LETTER

 

Dear Congresswoman,

Thank you for your willingness to continue our discussion regarding the relationship between Israel and the United States.

Respectfully, Bibi is not the President of Israel. He is the Prime Minister of Israel. As for the Prime Minister of Israel, speaking before Congress, I believe he received an invitation to do so from the Speaker of the House. I do not believe it is protocol that this invitation must be approved by the President. Rather, on occasion, the Speaker of the House informs the President of his extending such an invitation. In this particular instance, there was a strong desire on the part of the members of Congress and the American people to hear from the Prime Minister of our strongest ally in the world regarding his views on a very tragic and dangerous situation for us all. As far as I know, the Speaker of the House did not formally inform the President of his extending an invitation to His Holiness, Pope Francis to speak before Congress.

As for the issue of our discussion regarding the relationship between Israel and the United States, I would hope you would speak with the President and Secretary of State asking them to distinguish between the terrorist activities now too often occurring on the streets of Israel and the various issues with regard to the negotiations between President Abbas and the State of Israel. Their actions do not have anything to do with such negotiations. On the contrary, they represent the reality on the ground in which years and years of indoctrination in the Palestinian school system has convinced these people that Jews are evil and the entirety of the State of Israel belongs to them. It is terribly frustrating to hear both the President and the Secretary of State imply over and over again there is an equivalency between the IDF protecting the sovereign State of Israel's civilian population from terrorist attacks and Palestinians stabbing Jewish grandmothers on the streets of Israel.

Respectfully,
Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz