The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition
NU's Katz reminds Emanuel he's Jewish
Apr. 19, 2009
Matthew Wagner , THE JERUSALEM POST
National Union chairman Ya'acov "Ketzele" Katz sent a letter to White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel last week admonishing him not to forget his Jewish and Israeli origins.
Katz's missive came in response to a reported verbal exchange between Emanuel and an unidentified American Jewish leader.
Katz claims that in a private meeting with the unnamed leader, Emanuel said, "In the next four years, there will be a peace agreement with the Palestinians on the basis of two states for two peoples, and it does not matter to us who is the prime minister."
In the letter, a Hebrew version of which was provided to The Jerusalem Post by Katz's parliamentary aide, Katz wrote: "For many Israelis, this report is a cause for worry because it reveals a condescending attitude toward our prime minister and Israeli public opinion. This is an attitude that Israel does not expect from a real friend such as the US, and all the more so from an Israeli Jew who has succeeded in being appointed White House chief-of-staff."
Katz went on to compare Emanuel to the biblical Esther, who ended up at using her influence with Persian King Ahashverosh to intervene on behalf of the Jews of the Persian Empire.
"For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Katz wrote, quoting from the Book of Esther (4:14).
Katz was hinting that Emanuel should use his influence to protect Israeli interests, which, he believes, are best served by preventing the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Emanuel was born in Chicago in 1959. His father, Benjamin M. Emanuel, a Jerusalem-born pediatrician, was a member of the IZL (Irgun).
Rahm Emanuel and his brothers attended summer camp in Israel. Emanuel and his wife, Amy Rule, are members of Anshe Sholom B'nai Israel, a modern Orthodox congregation in Chicago. They have a son and two daughters; the older two attend the same Conservative day school Emanuel himself attended as a child.
During the Clinton administration he directed the details of the 1993 Rose Garden signing ceremony for the Oslo Accords, down to the choreography of the handshake between prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and PLO leader Yasser Arafat.
In November, Emanuel said US President Barack Obama did not need his influence to "orientate his policy toward Israel."
Meanwhile, the National Union said it was never officially notified by the Likud that it would not be entering the new government coalition.
"Basically, we are still waiting for a telephone call," Harel Cohen, secretary of the NU's rabbinic council, said on Sunday.
"Up until the swearing in of the new government, we were still receiving signals from the Likud that we were wanted in the coalition," Cohen said.
He also said that in principle, there was nothing in the Netanyahu government's platform that would prevent the NU from joining the coalition.
"Obviously, if the present government adopts a 'two-states for two peoples' solution, that would be problematic. But so far that has not happened."
The NU's rabbinic council, which gives final approval for all of the party's political decisions, released a letter of support for Katz.
The council, whose members include Hebron-Kiryat Arba Rabbi Dov Lior, Beit El Rabbi Zalman Melamed and Rabbi Ya'acov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, responded to claims that Katz had made "outrageous demands" that kept the NU out of the coalition.
Rather, according to the rabbis, it was a sudden, inexplicable change of mood in the Likud.