Benjamin Netanyahu’s last-ditch campaign announcement yesterday that if he reelected he will annex West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley has brought a divided response from American Jewish groups.
Right and center Zionist orgs have said nothing. AIPAC’s twitter feed doesn’t mention the big plan. The American Jewish Committee is praising John Bolton. Even the Democratic Majority for Israel group is quiet about annexation. They all surely approve the policy and don’t want to contribute to the divisiveness over Israel in U.S. politics.
But liberal Zionist groups are very upset about the announcement, as a threat to the “two state solution,” the Oslo dream of establishing a Palestinian state alongside Israel. Liberal Zionists believe they can only preserve Israel by separating Jewish and Palestinian majorities in adjacent states. Netanyahu’s announcement, and his political rivals’ endorsement of a portion of the plan, mocks this vision by affirming there is just one state, in which Palestinians are second-class citizens or worse, living in bantustans.
One liberal Zionist organization explicitly called for “separation” of Jews and Palestinians today so that Israel can be a democracy. Mara Lee, the director of OneVoice, says that annexation threatens Israel’s “very identity as the national homeland for the Jewish people and a democratic state for all its citizens” and she links to her Israeli partner Darkenu’s site, “Say Yes to Separation.” It warns that adding “millions of Palestinian citizens” will endanger “Israel’s character.”
“Separation” is obviously not the sort of language that progressives in the U.S. use. It sounds a lot like “segregation” in the Jim Crow era. OneVoice is evidently appealing to a more conservative Jewish base that views Palestinians as a “demographic” threat.
The statement issued yesterday, by the “Progressive Israel Network” of ten liberal Zionist organizations, including Peace Now, T’ruah, J Street, Ameinu, New Israel Fund etc., does not ever mention Zionism or a Jewish state or a Jewish majority. Those terms are now dirty words on the American left.
But the concern at the bottom of the urgent statement is the same as OneVoice’s fear: if Israel loses its Jewish majority it will be branded as an apartheid state.
A democratic and peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians requires national self-determination for both peoples. Any step to unilaterally impose Israeli sovereignty over Palestinian people and territory in the West Bank is a step away from the two-state vision and toward the formalization of two separate and unequal legal systems…
[Annexation] harms millions of Palestinians living under occupation and poses an existential threat to Israeli democracy
PS Amos Oz, the saint of J Street, often called for separation explicitly. But American liberals know that terms like “separation” are red flags for actual progressives.
Illinois Rep. Jan Schakowsky openly worried in a tweet about the “Jewish” democracy that is one of Zionism’s claims.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s announcement today that if reelected, he intends to annex the Jordan Valley and all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, would mean the end of the Jewish, democratic, State of Israel as we know it.
The Union for Reform Judaism is also explicit about the Jewish state in its condemnation of Netanyahu:
These are unilateral moves endangering Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and further limiting the possibility of a two-state solution.
Israel Policy Forum (center left Zionist) says Netanyahu’s “disastrous policy” endangers the “Jewish and democratic state” and will alienate Jews.
Unilateral West Bank annexation, no matter how partial or in what form, will have disastrous consequences for Israel, its security, and its status as a Jewish and democratic state. Once the annexation process begins, it will become exceedingly difficult to control or limit in any effective way, and to take any steps down this path is unprecedentedly irresponsible and reckless…
It marks the beginning of the fundamental destruction of the two-state vision, which is supported by the international community, an overwhelming majority of American Jews, and pluralities of Israelis and Palestinians. To do so will exacerbate partisan divisions on Israel in the United States, ultimately erode Israel’s security, give an unnecessary and clear victory to the BDS movement, and upend decades of carefully calibrated policy on Israel.
Note that IPF refers to “decades of carefully calibrated policy on Israel.” This is implicitly an acceptance of occupation and managed conflict.
Netanyahu’s announcement is clearly a challenge to liberal Zionists. Daniel Gordis writes today in the New York Post that liberal American Jews are in for “a rude awakening” from the next government involving their ideals about Israel.
They claim Netanyahu’s 2018 law declaring Israel the nation-state of the Jewish people has eroded the country’s democracy. Above all, they blame Netanyahu for the lack of progress on the Palestinian front.
Matt Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition couldn’t help trolling the liberal Zionists and anti-occupation activists.
Anyone who frequents our site is aware that Palestinians say clearly that Israel is not a democracy, it is the nation state of the Jewish people in which Jews have primary rights, including to land. And as to the “formalization” of separate/unequal systems the Progressive Israel Network warns about, those systems have been in place for many years now in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
As I noted at the start, mainstream rightwing Zionist American Jewish organizations have had nothing critical to say about Netanyahu’s declaration. “Outrageous that establishment American Jewish groups who claim to represent the community —@AIPAC, @AJCGlobal, & @Conf_of_Pres — spent yesterday praising Islamophobic, war-hawk John Bolton yet had nothing to say about Netanyahu’s pledge to annex 30% of the West Bank if elected,” IfNotNow says.
John Bolton is a stalwart defender of US global interests; steadfast ally of [Israeli flag] and the Jewish people; and fierce adversary of anti-democratic, weapons-proliferating, and terrorist-sponsoring regimes, most notably in Tehran. We thank him and wish him well.