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Home > OP-ED > Editorial on Jewish relationships with President-elect Bush

Title: Editorial on Jewish relationships with President-elect Bush
by Jonathan Friendly
Jewish Renaissance Media

Prepared For Partnership

OK, so George W. Bush wasn't the choice of the overwhelming majority of American Jews. But he is going to be our president in a month, and we better figure how out how we want to deal with that fact.

We start by saying that we respect the office of the president and believe that Bush has the capacity to be a leader for the whole nation.

But he can only do that by hewing to the middle ground on which the vast majority of the country stands and by paying attention to protecting the diversity of opinions that makes America so intellectually and economically robust.

Bush has said he wants to do a few things exceptionally well rather than spending the national energy on myriad foreign and domestic enterprises. We hope that doesn't mean concentrating on Russia and China at the expense of Israel. It is up to our Jewish leaders to show him that would be a mistake.

While the Bush administration figures to be much less activist than the Clinton one in forcing a peace process, we need to press for upgrading the strategic ties between Washington and Jerusalem, and to be ready to oppose the kind of arms sales to Arab nations that the first President Bush allowed. We should support the new administration's efforts, voiced by Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell and National Security Adviser to-be Condoleezza Rice, to stand strongly against Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

Domestically, the Bush administration will likely never accede to meaningful new laws the majority of Jews want on campaign-finance reform or gun control. But it may be willing to heed Jewish voices in crafting legislation on prescription-drug coverage for the elderly or crafting "charitable choice" programs to be sure that the faith-based agencies providing the services do not misuse them as recruiting opportunities.

Jewish leadership must stand firm against relaxing the prayer-in-school standards that the U.S. Supreme Court has set. It must continue to protect women's rights to meaningful control of their reproductive process. It must contest badly crafted, broad-scale school voucher programs that would undermine public schools without providing meaningful gains for all students.

The Bush White House should know that we are prepared to meet it halfway on its priorities -- even if our votes went 80-20 for Al Gore. To do that, we should begin building ties to the new administration, to let it know that we won't reflexively oppose initiatives just because they are Bush-sponsored.

We are prepared to fight for the things that we believe in -- like appointing outstanding jurists to the Supreme Court. But we aren't going to go out of our way to look for a fight. The president-elect says he wants to try working together. So do we.


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