The EU’s demand that Israel state in writing that the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights are not part of Israel has had one important result: it has dramatized the Netanyahu government’s angry opposition to ever yielding these territories.
Below are two responses to the EU decision, one showing how much support there is for the bold move among thinking Israelis, the other showing that the organized American Jewish community is likely to fall into line behind the Israeli government against the EU and embrace the reactionary prime minister as a peacemaker.
First, a note from an anonymous friend in Israel summarizing the shock of the EU announcement in Israeli society, and showing that a large liberal bloc supports the EU decision inside the Israeli discourse.
Just wanted to give you a very brief update about the atmosphere right now in Israel, from the big Israeli newspapers. Haaretz seems to overwhelmingly embrace the EU decision. I was shocked to see this morning an article by Ari Shavit, usually a “center” voice (i.e., right-wing in my view), supports this recent decision, and adds a warning to the Israelis to wake up and stop ignoring the occupation.
The editorial board of Haaretz published in the last few days an op-ed after op-ed that supports the EU decision, again, calling the Israelis to wake up. Gideon Levy embraced for the first time out loud the boycott. This is incredible and extremely important. It shows that the international boycott, although limited right now to investments in the West Bank, is on its way to become something to consider, to take into account, and even support – not only by a marginal “crazy leftist” but by anyone who support the idea of ending the occupation – essentially Haaretz readers.
Naturally, other newspapers are less supportive. YNET this morning said nothing about it. Israel Hayom, which is the biggest supporter of Netanyahu (owned by his friend Sheldon Adelson) had few op-eds condemning the decision. This is not surprising, but it’s also not too bad – it just proves how effective this decision was in shaking the discourse in Israel, and making the occupation relevant. Yes, Israelis managed to forget that there’s a problem called “occupation”. The EU decision reminds them it exists and they should do something about it, or pay a price for it.
To summarize, I think that the EU decision is incredible, and there are signs that it’s going to be accepted by a growing number of influential people as the most important tool for action against the occupation. Netanyahu’s government comes up now with ridiculous arguments, such as “the EU actions will stop the negotiations led by Kerry”. I hope that the US will not take this threat seriously and use the genuine positive efforts of Kerry to advance peace as a way to block or undermine the EU actions. From my experience, Israel usually uses “peace negotiations” as a way to earn time and continue the occupation without interruptions. So it’s important that the public in the US will show Obama’s government that they support the EU actions.
My friend hopes that Americans will organize in support of the EU, too. But here is an amazing letter/screed from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, which represents mainstream Jewish organizations and presumes to pursue “social justice.” The JCRC is flipped out by the EU move, and says it is isolating Israel.
Even as J Street is calling the EU decision a “wake up call” to reenergize the two-state solution, the JCRC represents the old guard. And this letter shows this powerful community’s opposition to giving up the settlements:
As Kerry seeks to build momentum from President Obama’s historic spring visit to Israel and Ramallah, we are faced with an action that is itself a setback to the pursuit of a necessary peace: the European Union’s demand that Israel reject all territorial claims in the West Bank and its attempt to encourage a blanket boycott of interaction with the settlements.
… Unfortunately the EU’s actions reflect a severe misunderstanding of the path to peace.
… A significant majority of Israelis consistently say that they are ready to make the sacrifice of territorial withdrawal in order to achieve peace. However, a significant majority of Israelis also perceive the Palestinian leadership as unwilling, and unable, to make commitments to ensure an enduring peace. On its own, a bilateral peace agreement would not ensure Israel’s recognition by other Arab states nor its security in a region of multiple threats to its existence…
We need to encourage social and economic relationships between Israelis and Palestinians to build shared understanding and recognition of each other’s aspirations. The separation barrier necessarily reduced violent friction between the two peoples over the past decade, yet it also curtailed much of the interaction that preceded this period. Today, industry and commerce in the settlements represent rare intersections between Israelis and Palestinians. It is in our interest to encourage more economic interaction rather than cut off ties that already exist.
We also need to address legitimate concerns about Israel’s security…
President Obama expressed a powerful understanding of Israel’s need for security assurances when he said in March: “So long as there is a United States of America, Atem Lo Levad (you are not alone).”
The EU’s actions, effectively placing blame for the conflict and responsibility for peace solely on Israel, run counter to such confidence building…. [They] encourage Palestinian intractability with Secretary Kerry and other peacemakers. They also send a loud message to Israelis that they are, as far as Europe is concerned, alone. This attempt to isolate to Israel will not inspire her people to take real risks for the peace they so desperately want.
Secretary Kerry has described this moment as a window for peace. We concur. President Obama created this window with his historic visit. Bringing the two parties back to the table without preconditions is the next step. We are encouraged by Prime Minster Netanyahu’s expressed commitment to negotiate and reach an agreement. We encourage efforts that build momentum for peace. Sadly the EU’s actions make this harder.
Two states remain the only possible solution that ensures Israel’s existence as a safe, secure and Jewish democratic nation. Two states remain the only viable option for Palestinians achieving their aspirations for national self-determination. Even if the momentum of this moment is lost we will need to keep the window open for a two-state resolution because we can never give up hoping for and working toward peace, no matter how long it takes. President Obama understands this. We believe that Secretary Kerry does as well. Sadly we now know, if we didn’t previously, that the European Union does not.
Jeremy Burton Executive Director, JCRC
Stacey Bloom, Chair, Israel & Global Jewry Committee
Even Chris Matthews says that there is more debate about Israel’s policies inside Israel than in the United States. Why is that? Because the lobby continues to insist that American Jews speak with one voice on the conflict, and support Israel right or wrong, lest non-Jewish America sell Israel out in a heartbeat. The JCRC letter’s emphasis on Israel’s loneliness and vulnerability reflects generational attitudes about Jewish insecurity in the west: that anti-Semitism might engulf us, and so we have to stick together. This is the ideological basis of Zionism, and it’s anachronistic.