Wednesday, July 29, 2015
Today American citizens are exercising a cherished American right. Many members of AIPAC are flying into D.C. to lobby their members of Congress to vote against the proposed nuclear agreement with Iran. I applaud them. They are engaging in an activity at the heart of America’s greatness: the right of any citizen to directly speak to and to try to persuade their representatives.
From both my former profession as a lobbyist in California and from my many years as a pro-Israel activist, I have known some members of Congress for many years. Even though I could not be there in person, I decided to join my fellow American citizens in lobbying members of Congress. I thought I could provide a personal perspective of an American now living in Israel, someone with a foot in each country.
And so I wrote personal letters to a few Democratic Congressional members and I asked my colleagues in the U.S. to deliver the letters when they visit the members. Of course, like any professional, I ignored much of the advice I gave clients for 30 years: be brief, stick to the talking points. I did follow some of my advice: I am polite, and I am clear about what I am asking for: A NO vote.
With some brief introductory, personal sentences omitted, here’s my letter:
My wife Dana and I have the privilege of being citizens of both the United States and Israel, and we live part of each year in Sacramento and Jerusalem. I am writing to you from Jerusalem, where I can tell you that the Iranian nuclear deal is on the minds of many if not most people.
Firstly, I would like to say just how much we appreciate your longtime friendship with, and support of, the Jewish community and Israel. You have been a true and loyal friend, and I know your feelings are heartfelt. I know that asking you to vote against a major foreign policy initiative of President Obama is a huge request, and I know that you will very seriously consider the impact of the agreement on the safety and the future of Israelis and Americans.
I know several associates of mine who are your constituents will be visiting with you or your staff to explain their opposition to the agreement. I know from my communications with them that I share the reasons they will express for opposing the agreement. I wanted to add or emphasize a few points that are especially concerning or upsetting to me, perhaps because of the perspective I have gained from living a good part of the last five years in Israel.
Ironically, my first major concern has little or nothing to do with Israel, Iran, or nuclear arms. It is a concern borne out of my being a lawyer and out of having watched the erosion of Congressional power vis-à-vis Presidential power over the last 45 years. It has to do with the Constitution and checks-and-balances.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
Our friend Shimon Re’em was being honored last Wednesday night by the City of Haifa for his contributions over a lifetime to the city and the area. An educator by profession, Shimon has spent a very active retirement educating citizens, particularly young people, about the Haifa area prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the early years, with an emphasis on the resistance to the British.
I wasn’t looking forward to the traffic and to driving up to Haifa and back to Jerusalem in one evening. But it isn’t often that a family friend of 25-plus years is honored, so off we went. We left Jerusalem about 3:15, planning to beat some traffic and to arrive early enough to grab dinner on the Carmel in Haifa.
About 5:00, we drove into one of the rest stop/gas station/coffee shop places along Highway 6. It’s Israel’s version of the Eastern U.S.’ old Howard Johnson stops. No one will mistake them for a desert oasis. Not looking forward to my usual frustration using a U.S. credit card at an Israeli gas pump, I treated myself to the full service pumps.
A young man strolled over, took my card, and went to work. “Where you from?” he asked in decent accented English.
Sensing he was not really interested in my usual “We live part of the year in Jerusalem, part in Sacramento, I sold my business early so that I could pursue Herzl’s dream,” I simply replied, “California.”
To which he inquired “You Jewish?”
Not totally surprised by the question, I replied “Yes.” Then I got a little surprise. His answer: “Well, then, this is your home. Welcome.”
Feeling I knew the answer but sensing a door had been opened a bit, I asked: “Thank you. And you?”
“I’m Arab.” Then, looking like he felt I might need some clarification, he added “I am an Israeli Arab.”
Me: “So this is your home too?”