Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, warned Monday that US Jews and pro-Israel advocates were being distracted by the 2016 election instead of focusing on the damage President Barack Obama could still do in his remaining months in office.
“The obsession, I have to say, with the presidential election is, to me, one of the most dangerous things that is happening,” Hoenlein said during a forum hosted by JP Updates and moderated by New York City Councilman David Greenfield in Brooklyn.
“We have nine months still to go where these issues are going to be in play. People are not talking about it. They’re not thinking about it. All they are thinking about is watching the circus of the political realm," he told the crowd of 40, which consisted mostly of local Orthodox Jewish leaders, according to the Jewish Journal.
The American Jewish community should keep an eye on Obama, he opined, since he could refocus his attention on the failed Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which he tried to push forward throughout most of his presidency.
According to Hoenlein, Obama is not going to end his presidency as a lame duck, but as an activist president “who has made clear that he has a legacy agenda that he wants to implement.”
Hoenlein thinks Obama aims to “create the predicates” for the creation of a future Palestinian state, according to the Journal.
“I’m telling you," he warned, "we’re going to all look back in a few months and say, ‘How did all of these things happen?’ The government in Washington is not stopping. They’re going ahead, and on critical issues to our future. These issues are not going to be decisions for years. They’re going to be things that will affect your grandchildren and their grandchildren. These are decisions of generations.”
Hoenlein added that a problematic US-Israel relationship adversely affects the Arab relationship with the US as well. “There is an important message that when the relationship with Israel is bad, the Arabs look at this and take this as a measure of the confidence they can have in their relationship,” he explained. "They say, if Israel, with the Jewish lobby and all the Jewish support, can’t rely on America, what chance do we have?"
Hoenlein argued that while Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush had their moments of tension with the Israeli government, “nobody doubted where they stood.” Whereas with Obama, “It’s just that there’s a lack of confidence; that people aren’t sure.”
Regarding the Iran nuclear deal, Hoenlein insisted that the campaign against the deal did not go to waste despite the outcome. "A majority of Americans still say this is a bad deal. So the educational efforts and all the work that people put in, one should not think that it was in vain. It accomplished something.”