Reacting to several recent moves by Israel's government that sabotage a future Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, Americans for Peace Now (APN) today called on fellow American Jewish organizations to join APN in vocal opposition to annexation and to unilaterally pre-judging issues that Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate to achieve a final-status peace deal.
The call was asserted in letters that APN sent today to American Jewish umbrella organizations. Those include: The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), and the three largest religious movements: The Union for Reform Judaism, The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the Orthodox Union.
Following is the text of the letter, signed by APN's Chair of the Board James Klutznick and President and CEO Debra DeLee:
Dear (Mr. / Ms.),
We are writing to urge you to join us in expressing deep concern over current initiatives by Israel's coalition government and its constituent parties to sabotage a future two-state solution for Israel's conflict with the Palestinians. Slamming the door on the two-state solution would condemn Israel to the status of a pariah state that does not implement the vision of its founders: a democratic homeland for the Jewish people. "
In recent days, the Likud Central Committee voted unanimously to endorse the annexation of West Bank settlements by Israel. Meanwhile, Israel's Attorney General has instructed government ministries to apply new laws, by default, to West Bank settlers. This brings Israel closer than it has ever been to extending its laws to a territory it holds under "belligerent occupation.
"Belligerent occupation" is the legal term that defines Israel's current status in the West Bank, which has protected Israel for years from the charge of Apartheid. It implies temporary rule in a disputed area, the future of which will be determined through negotiations. In practice, Israel has extended many of its laws to settlers in the West Bank, but has done so through military orders, thus maintaining the façade of a separate legal regime there. Once that façade is removed, American Jews will find themselves with little grounds for defending Israel against charges of Apartheid and with scant rationale for claiming that Israel is holding the West Bank temporarily pending a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.
Further suggesting that the Israeli government is not interested in a viable peace with the Palestinians, the Knesset passed legislation that requires a two-thirds super-majority to approve any change in Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. This renders close to impossible a negotiated peace settlement with Palestinians, who demand sovereignty over Arab-inhabited parts of Jerusalem. Israel's own senior national security officials have warned against pursuing the path of annexation. A spokesman for PLO Chairman and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas characterized the Knesset vote as a "declaration of war on the Palestinian people and its political and religious identity," and an indication that Israel has abandoned a political process in favor of a "policy of dictates."
Without exaggeration, at stake here is the Zionist dream of Israel's founders who endeavored to build a national homeland for the Jewish people: a democracy and a respected member of the family of nations.
We urge you to join us in sounding the alarm over the destructive actions of Israel's government. This is the time for true friends of Israel to make their voices heard. If you truly care about Israel and its Jewish and democratic character, this is the time to save it from dogmatic zealots who are jockeying for political advantage in possible upcoming elections rather than acting in Israel's best interest.
This is the time to speak up, loudly, in favor of responsible Israeli government policies that will secure Israel as a beacon of democracy that embodies our Jewish values, and recognize the right of Palestinians to live in their sovereign state, side-by-side with Israel, in peace and security.
Please state your organization's strong objection to these self-destructive annexationist, anti-peace policies of the Israeli government. And, in doing so, please affirm your support of a negotiated two-state peace agreement.
(Jim Klutznick and Debra DeLee)