Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Claim to Speak for All Jews Is Disputed, Characterized As “Arrogant”

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2015

Much attention has been paid to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s  
claims to speak not only for his own country, but for Jews throughout the  
world who are citizens of other countries, including American Jews. This  
claim is being widely challenged.  
Early in February, Netanyahu said he was not just the prime minister of  
Israel but also “a representative of the entire Jewish people.” (Washington  
Post, Feb. 12, 2015) It is considered unprecedented for the leader of one  
country to claim to speak in the name of millions of men and women who are  
citizens of other countries simply because of a shared religious faith.  
J Street, a liberal pro-Israel lobbying group, declared: “Israel’s Prime  
Minister said he would be representing all Jews when he addresses Congress …  
He said he’s coming to Washington ‘not just as the Prime Minister of Israel  
but as a representative of the entire Jewish people.’ He’s in the middle of  
a tough election campaign, battling along with other party leaders for the  
right to represent Israelis, but he certainly can’t claim to speak for Jews  
in the United States … Benjamin Netanyahu has his own constituents. Coming  
here to undermine a president who was elected with the votes of 69 per cent  
of American Jews, while having the audacity to claim he represents us, is  
real chutzpah.”  
Editorially, The Forward (Feb. 11, 2015) asked the question, “Who Speaks for  
the Jews?” It states: “By rushing to Paris to march, lecture and promote  
immig¬ration to Israel after the terrorist attacks in January, Netanyahu  
rankled many of the Jews he was ostensibly there to help, turning what  
should have essentially been a shiva (mourning) call to comfort the grieving  
into an uncomfortable political exercise. And by claiming to represent all  
Jews in his plea to a GOP Congress to defy a Democratic president, Netanyahu  
risks the ‘Israelization’ or even the ‘Judaization’ of the debate over  
Iran’s nuclear program.”  
According to The Forward, “We have survived into modern times because we  
haven’t relied on one leader — a king or prelate or pope — and instead  
embraced the fact that we are diverse in more ways than we can count … We’ve  
learned to find vitality and sustenance in a dynamic pluralism that resists  
centralization … Not all our lives are consumed by terror and hate. Not all  
our lives revolve around Israel. Editors at The Forward have been penning  
editorials for more than a century, but we wouldn’t presume to speak for all  
Jews. Neither should anyone else.”  
On March 1, just before leaving to address a joint session of Congress,  
Prime Minister Netanyahu tweeted that, “I feel that I am an emissary … of  
the entire Jewish people.” (Washington Times, March 2, 2015). Sen. Diane  
Feinstein (D-CA) declared: “Netanyahu doesn’t speak for me … I think it is a  
rather arrogant statement. I think the Jewish community is like any other  
community, there are different points of view. I think that arrogance does  
not befit Israel.”  
David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, agreed that Israel can  
speak only on behalf of its own citizens “and in no way presumes to  
represent or speak in the name of Jews who are citizens of other countries.”  
That was 1950. Now, in 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu has taken it upon himself to  
speak in the name of all Jews, what¬ever their nationality, citizenship or  
point view. As J Street, The Forward, and many other Jewish voices have made  
clear, Mr. Netanyahu has no mandate to speak for anyone but himself and  
those who have elected him. •

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.