Monday, July 17, 2017

Commentary: American Jewish Groups Express Concern about the Apparent Abandonment of a “Two State” Solution


By Allan C. Brownfeld

At his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February, President Trump abandoned decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and declared that the U.S. would no longer insist on the creation of a Palestinian state as part of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  
 
If Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing a peace agreement, those with experience in the region say that he must inevitably return to a two-state solution. “If you do a system¬atic analysis of the situation, there is no other option,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and Egypt. “There are Israelis who believe they could get away with giving the Palestinians minimal political rights, but they are fooling themselves.”  
 
Those in Israel and the American Jewish community who want a genuine and just peace between Israel and the Palestinians have expressed concern. Peace Now called the Trump-Netanyahu press conference “terrifying.” It declared: “The two leaders are not only depriving Israel of the very possibility of reaching peace but also undermining Israel’s own future as a democracy and a Jewish state. They are delivering a huge victory to extremists on both sides.”  
 
J Street, which describes itself as “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” stated: To be clear there is no one-state configuration that leads to peace. There is no resolution to this conflict without full political rights and independence for both peoples. All so-called ‘one state solutions’ are recipes for more violence that will ultimately threaten Israel’s identity as a democracy and a Jewish homeland.”  
 
The Union for Reform Judaism declared: “Only a two-state solution can achieve the goals of the Israelis and Palestinians. We see President Trump’s abdication of the long-time, bipartisan support for a two-state solution darkly. It is potentially devastating to the prospects for peace and Israel’s Jewish, democratic future.”  
 
The appointment of David Friedman, Mr. Trumps’ bankruptcy attorney and supporter of West Bank settlements, who has called for Israel to annex the occupied territories, has also stirred much controversy. He has referred to Jews who support a two-state solution as “kapos,” Jews who assisted the Nazis during World War II. He charged former President Barack Obama with “blatant anti-Semitism.” (At his Senate confirmation hearing, he apologized for such statements).  
 
Jewish organizations that have never before opposed anyone named to be U.S. Ambassador to Israel embarked upon a campaign to thwart Friedman’s confirmation. These groups include Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, the New Israel Fund and Jewish Voice for Peace. Hundreds of rabbis and cantors signed petitions opposing his confirmation, as did Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who heads the Union for Reform Judaism.  
 
Daniel Sokatch, whose New Israel Fund advocates for civil rights in Israel, said that Friedman holds views directly in opposition to the organization’s values of tolerance and mutual respect: “Here’s a person with no diplomatic experience, who’s been put in a position to be the ambassador to one of our most important allies and who holds extreme views. It’s like throwing a lighted match into a tinderbox.”  
 
Five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel circulated a letter describing Friedman as unqualified because of his “extreme” and “radical positions.”  
 
Writing in Washington Jewish Week (Feb. 16, 2017), Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD) notes that, “Friedman’s relentless denunc¬iation of Democrats and liberal Jews mark him as a polemicist unfit to represent the American people as ambassador anywhere, above all to Israel where he is a partisan actor in the conflicts of the day … He is no diplomat … but a firebrand activist openly contemptuous of the two-state solution … Friedman’s selection is a wrecking ball in American politics and specifically the Jewish community, which needs reconciliation and dialogue, not more division and polarization. … Now is a moment that calls for maximum prudence and diplomacy in office, cultural bridge-building and creative political action to break the brutal logic of hatred and war …”  
 
Writing in Mondoweiss (Feb. 28, 2017), Philip Weiss argues that the 50th anniversary of the occupation will “rock the Jewish establishment.” He notes that, “...the American Jewish community is going to hit an iceberg called the Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of the occupation/Six Day War. The collision is going to change the Jewish establishment. The fractures that have been developing for years over Israel are going to break out in public agony. The anniversary will change the American Jewish relationship to Israel for a long time, as the Six-Day War did fifty years ago. Young Jews will take charge, young anti-Zionists will be welcomed into some synagogues, and some will speak up for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against Israel … There is a great positive movement afoot in the Jewish community … The ’67 war married American Jews to a militant state as their primary form of identity in the shadow of the Holocaust; but the Jubilee year is going to mark the divorce.”

This article was originally published in the April 2017 edition of Special Interest Report, a quarterly journal of the American Council for Judaism.

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Allan C. Brownfeld received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues. He also serves on the editorial board of The San Francisco Review of Books.

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