--Yedioth's Washington D.C. correspondent in an Op-Ed responding to US President Donald Trump's declaration that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.*
In December of 1988, during the last days of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, the United States publicly agreed to an official dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization. This followed PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s renunciation of terrorism, acceptance of Israel’s right to exist, and endorsement of UN resolutions 242 and 338, after which the US accepted the PLO’s legitimacy. In effect, the PLO had conceded that 78 percent of what they considered to be historic Palestine was now Israel. They accepted that control of the “remaining” 22% — the West Bank and Gaza Strip — would be determined by negotiations.
The Palestinians had finally assented to the “land for peace” formula that had been adopted by the US, Israel, and the international community after the 1967 war. Now, almost 30 years later, this formula is being undermined by a figure who once would have seemed an unlikely culprit: the US ambassador to Israel.
The comment by US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, made at a press briefing this past Wednesday, was as absurd as it was dangerous: “We are not going to state what the outcome [to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict] has to be. It has to be workable to both sides. And I think, really, that’s the best view as to not really bias one side over the other.”
By this logic, any expressed preference by the Trump administration for a two-state solution risks prejudging the outcome of the peace process in favor of either Israelis or Palestinians.
In reality, an explicit endorsement of a two-state solution is the most unbiased approach that the administration could take.
The June 25th decision by the Israeli government to suspend the agreement to create a pluralistic prayer space at the Western Wall could not have been more poorly timed. Coinciding with a visit of American Jewish leaders to Israel and coupled with the government’s decision to further a bill tightening regulations on Jewish conversions, the message of disrespect, disregard, and rejection was thus maximized – as was the response.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism cancelled a planned dinner with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, along with Rabbi Steve Wernick, CEO of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, called the decision a “betrayal.” Jerry Silverman, CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America called the move “a direct insult.” The outrage even included this line from Michael Siegel, the chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel: “Support for Israel does not necessarily mean support for the Israeli government.”
APN hosted a briefing call on Friday, October 14th, at 3:00 pm Eastern Time with Lara Friedman, APN director of policy and government relations, and Israeli legal expert Michael Sfard. The call was moderated by APN's Aaron Mann.
Friedman and Sfard discussed the content of a UN Security Council special session, entitled “Illegal Israeli Settlements: An Obstacle to Peace and a Threat to the Two-State Solution,” at which Friedman spoke.
Listen to the briefing call here.
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