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February 28, 2015, New York, NY -- As Jews around the world read the portion for Shabbat Zachor in Deuteronomy, which warns about the intractable enemies of the Jewish people beginning with Amalek, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, hid behind the façade of "The Values Network," and published a grotesque ad in The New York Times attacking the United States' National Security Advisor, Susan Rice.
What did Ambassador Rice do to merit such opprobrium? A longstanding, consistent and staunch defender of Israel, Ambassador Rice respectfully questioned the wisdom of Prime Minister Netanyahu's upcoming speech in Congress. Of course, she was far from alone in doing so. Key voices in the United States and in Israel, on the right and on the left, raised similar concerns. As Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said earlier this week "Israel has three key foreign policy objectives: 1. Good relations with the United States; 2. Good relations with the US; and 3. Good relations with the US." That relationship must be nurtured, not harmed, by leaders in the United States and Israel.
Let us be clear. The Iranian regime poses an existential threat to the Jewish State not Susan Rice or the current US Administration. Rabbi Boteach and those who support his abhorrent attack should retract their sinister slur. It is substantively wrong, politically deaf, and, most dangerously, a distraction from the very real dangers facing Israel.
We are among those who said that Prime Minister Netanyahu's address before the Congress two weeks before the Israeli elections was ill-conceived. As we anticipate the speech this week, we call the Prime Minister as well as his critics to stay focused on the real issue: how to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The Obama Administration has been working with an international coalition, the P5 +1, to negotiate an agreement that will prevent a nuclear Iran. Those negotiations are ongoing; we eagerly await the specifics. At the same time, the government of Israel has raised substantial and legitimate questions regarding these lengthy negotiations. We have listened carefully to the Prime Minister, just as we read with interest the powerful essay by Isaac Herzog, the leader of the Zionist Camp and Prime Minister Netanyahu's leading opponent in the upcoming Israeli elections, in The New York Times, arguing that a nuclear Iran must be prevented. We need a smart, serious, respectful debate. Rabbi Boteach's screed is none of those things.
Together with thousands of Reform Jews from across North America, we will be at the AIPAC conference this week. We will respectfully welcome the Prime Minister of Israel. We will listen closely to speakers from a variety of perspectives. And we will express loudly our appreciation for Susan Rice's leadership on behalf of the United States of America and the State of Israel.
Union for Reform Judaism President Rabbi Rick Jacobs
Chair of the URJ North American Board Steve Sacks
Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism Rabbi Jonah Pesner