Blasting Israel Makes Strange Bedfellows

Bipartisan hate at the J Street conference.

Former Secretary of State James A. Baker, III, represents everything the Jewish left hates.

He's a lifelong Republican, a former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan and a former member of Reagan's cabinet. Baker's positions on hot button social and political issues are the exact opposite of the positions taken by liberal-minded Jewish Democrats.

Yet there was Baker delivering the keynote address at J Street's national conference in late March, the most prominent left-wing Jewish group in America.

How is that possible?

The answer is that James Baker and J Street have found one issue on which they can agree, and they are both so obsessed with that issue that they are willing to set aside their many and extreme differences, in order to join forces in their common cause: blasting Israel.

Baker's animus toward Israel goes all the way back to his days as a student at Princeton University, when his senior thesis (in 1952) argued that U.S. recognition of the newborn State of Israel was a mistake.

As secretary of state under George H.W. Bush from 1989 to 1992, Baker regularly criticized and pressured Israel to make more concessions to the Arabs.

It was during this period that Baker became friends and tennis partners with a prominent left-wing Jewish pundit, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. Friedman managed to overcome his revulsion at Baker's Republican views because they shared an animus against Israel -- and for both of them, denouncing Israel was paramount.

In his autobiography, Baker described how his tennis buddy Friedman would give him suggestions on how to pressure Israel. He credited Friedman for the notorious episode in which Baker publicly humiliated Israel by sarcastically announcing the White House phone number and declaring that the Israelis should call when they get serious about peace. For good reason did the editors of The New Republic, in 1992, characterize Friedman as "the New York Times' State Department spokesman" and as part of "the James Baker Ministry of Information."

That same year, Baker was quoted by the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv as saying "Jews remember the Holocaust, but they forget insults as soon as they smell cash," and the Los Angeles Times reported that he had referred to pro-Israel members of Congress as "the little Knesset."

The ultimate irony, though, is that when Baker, in 1992, uttered his infamous anti-Jewish vulgarity, "F-- the Jews, they don't vote for us anyway," he was referring to Jews such as his pal Tom Friedman.

Last week, Baker was heartily applauded by an auditorium full of Jews who "don't vote for us anyway," at the J Street annual convention.

The J Streeters who despise everything that Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan stood for, cheered for the man who was a regional chairman of the Nixon reelection campaign in 1972, and campaign manager for Ronald Reagan's 1984 reelection race.

And so, the Republican ex-secretary of state who feels free to attack Israel because most Jews vote for the Democrats, has been embraced by some of those very Jewish Democrats he loathes. Animus towards Israel apparently trumps all other issues.

Obsessive resentment of the Jewish State makes for strange bedfellows.

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