American Jewish Group:
Move Over, Israelis, We’re Taking Over
May 30, 2016
group of prominent American Jews, in tandem with a group of retired, left-wing
Israeli military and security officials and an American security think tank, is
seeking—via the next U.S. president, whoever he or she will be—to force
policies on Israel that its government and a large majority of its population
Ron Kampeas of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports:
In a rare and sharp split with Israeli government policy, a group
of Jewish community leaders wants to get a proposal for a two-state solution to
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the next president’s desk….
Elements of the proposals…are radical departures from the
policies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s current government….
Tactically, getting the next president to kick-start new talks is also anathema
to Netanyahu, who regards outside pressure as counterproductive.
Kampeas explains that the organization behind this initiative, the
Israel Policy Forum,
was established in the early 1990s at the behest of then-Israeli
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who went over the head of what was then a hawkish
pro-Israel establishment to seek U.S. Jewish backing for his peace talks with
In other words, Rabin made that move during the early euphoria over
achieving “peace” with Yasser Arafat and his PLO. From that point until
Arafat’s death in 2004, well over a thousand Israelis were killed in
unprecedented waves of terror attacks.
“This time, however,” Kampeas notes,
the party doing the reaching over is not the Israeli prime
minister but Jewish community heavyweights who have helmed major Jewish
In the last 18 months or so, the Israel Policy Forum has
signed to its board Alan Solow and Robert Sugarman, past chairmen of the
Presidents Conference, the Jewish community’s foreign policy umbrella group.
Solow is also, Kampeas says, “probably the Jewish leader who has
been closest to President Barack Obama.”
Kampeas identifies three other American Jewish leaders who have
joined the endeavor, then reports:
The initiative will formally launch at a conference here [in
Washington] on May 31, showcasing proposals for resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict from veterans of the Israeli and American
diplomatic establishments—represented by Commanders for Israel’s
Security and the
Center for a New American Security, respectively.
Mainstream Jewish groups have long been resistant to openly challenging Israel
on security issues. Solow said that was less of a consideration in Israel’s
volatile political climate.
“One doesn’t know what Israel’s government is going to look
like in a week,” he said….
“Taking on the perspective from those in the pro-Israel
community, the only reasonable Zionist solution is to have two states for two
people[s],” Solow said.
In addition to “getting their proposal on the next president’s
desk,” the revamped Israel Policy Forum is “planning private and public
representations for Jewish community leaders and members of Congress.”
A few observations:
1. If someone had been offering you something since 1937 and you
had turned it down every time, wouldn’t it be fair to conclude that it was
something you didn’t want? The Palestinians have periodically been offered a
two-state solution for almost eight decades: from the 1937 Peel Commission plan
to the 1947 UN partition resolution to the 2000-2001 Barak-Clinton offers, the
2008 Olmert offer, and John Kerry’s 2014 framework document. Each time they
turned the proposal down flat. In the latter two cases, the Olmert offer and the
Kerry offer, the Palestinian leader was Mahmoud Abbas—who is also the current
leader. (Here Abbas confirms that
he turned down the Olmert offer; here Israel’s dovish, pro-peace process
Channel 2 reported that he emphatically rejectedthe Kerry offer.)
2. The notion of a final, formal, signed Israeli-Palestinian peace
has a hold over some minds so powerful—even in the face of repeated
invalidation—that it belongs to the domain of the psychological. The large
majority of Israelis now understand—in many cases from firsthand, bitter
experience—that the Palestinian side will not relinquish the “right of
return,” considers Israel an illegitimate entity, and will sign no document
that perpetuates its status as a Jewish state. Need more proof? Here’s a comprehensive overview, published late in 2015, of 330
Palestinian public opinion surveys showing that Palestinians overwhelmingly
regard Israel as an illegitimate entity that needs to be violently attacked.
3. In the military profession as in all others in Israel, a wide
mix of political opinions exist. Groups like the Israel Policy Forum can always
find Israelis, including military and security professionals, who see things the
way they do. The 2016 Pew Center survey of Israel reports that:
Most Israeli Jews describe their ideology as in the center (55%) or
on the right (37%) within the Israeli political spectrum. Just 8% of Israeli
Jews say they lean left.
The Israel Policy Forum—like anyone else, anywhere—has a right
to agree with the 8% of Israelis who are on the left. They manifestly do not
have a right, even if they can get some Israelis from the minuscule Israeli left
to go along with them, to impose their views on the majority of Israelis as
represented by their democratically elected government.
4. Solow’s statement that “One doesn’t know what Israel’s
government is going to look like in a week” is an extreme distortion. Since
1977 Israel has had eleven
Likud governments, two Likud-Labor national-unity governments, two Labor
governments, and one government led by Kadima (a relatively dovish spin-off of
Likud). In other words, the right-of-center Likud has clearly been dominant for
almost four decades, and especially since 2008—from which time all three
governments have been Likud-led. There is parliamentary volatility, but
5. Even if Israeli governmental shifts really were an unpredictable
hodgepodge, it would not mean foreign actors have the right to effectively take
the reins of Israeli policy. This is, of course, obviously true as a general
principle, and all the more poignantly true as it is Israelis who pay the price
when policies go wrong.
6. It is Israelis, not American Jews, or other Americans, who live
with the Palestinians as immediate, next-door neighbors. In the early 1990s,
perhaps half of Israelis agreed with the peace ideology according to which the
Palestinians had reconciled with the reality of Israel and were prepared to
reach a lasting accommodation with it. A quarter-century later, after thousands
of suicide bombings, shootings, stabbings, Molotov cocktails, rockets, and
mortars, only a tiny minority of Israelis still espouse the peace ideology. The
fact that some American Jews—calling themselves “Zionists”—show brazen
contempt for the Israeli majority means that they themselves deserve nothing but