President Obama’s view of Israel was sharply influenced by Rabbi Arnold Wolf, a key member of a cadre of liberal rabbis and Jewish activists who blamed Israel for the failure to achieve peace in the Middle East and urged negotiations with the Palestinian Liberation Organization while it carried out terrorist operations.
Wolf, who died in 2008, is remembered by those who knew him as a modern day Jewish “heretic” whose radical dogma on Israel and the American Jewish community traveled from a small Chicago synagogue all the way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
“Barack Obama knew many Jews in Chicago, but they tended to be left-wing Jews and tended to be people later involved in [the liberal advocacy group] J Street,” explained Jonathan Sarna, a professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University.
It is these liberal players who “bred in Obama a specific and subversive vision of American Jewish identity and of the Jewish state,” Peter Beinart notes in his forthcoming book, The Crisis of Zionism.
Wolf in particular is said to have played a principal role in fostering Obama’s belief that the Jewish state—and, by proxy, the American Jewish establishment—could be pressured into negotiations with intransigent Palestinian political leaders.