APN's Debra Shushan and Ori Nir in Haaretz: U.S. Jewish Groups Say They Support a Two-state Solution. So Why Are They So Quiet While Trump Dismantles It?

Amid a barrage of anti-Palestinian actions, a tacit endorsement of Israel’s West Bank annexation, and an occupation-denying U.S. Ambassador, are the big guns of U.S. Jewry – AIPAC, ADL, AJC, JFNA – really too afraid to rock the boat with Trump?

While Donald Trump’s word salad du jour on Israeli-Palestinian peace vacillates between one state and two, it is by now clear that his administration has jettisoned the longtime bipartisan U.S. goal of a two-state solution. Nothing the administration has said indicates that it embraces this vision, and everything it does undermines it. 

Where does that leave American Jewish establishment organizations which have made the two-state solution a pillar of their policy on Israel? 

Take, for example, the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), which this week is holding its massive General Assembly in Tel Aviv. Its Israel Action Network boasts of its advocacy for "a peaceful future with two states for two peoples." Read the like-minded policy positions of the Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee.

AIPAC remains fully supportive of direct negotiations leading to a two-state solution – a Jewish state of Israel living in peace with a demilitarized Palestinian state.

Read more about AIPAC's approach here: https://t.co/jplO44Ar2a

— AIPAC (@AIPAC) October 18, 2018

Even the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the Jewish community’s official pro-Israel lobby, recently reaffirmed that it "remains fully supportive of direct negotiations leading to a two-state solution."  

We presume that these organizations adopted the two-state solution because they believe it is best for Israel’s future. Given an administration that is pursuing policies clearly hostile to the two state consensus support among American Jewish mainstream organizations, these groups must stop the wrecking ball President Trump has aimed at Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Are we unfairly characterizing the Trump administration’s policy? Let’s examine the facts. 

While Donald Trump can’t seem to decide what the result of his Ultimate Deal should be, the architects of Trump’s policy on Israel-Palestine have not equivocated.

The lead architect, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, came to his position with a zealous, well-documented animus toward the two-state solution. Though he feigned conversion to a two-state solution supporter in order to win Senate confirmation, Friedman has not only worked against the establishment of a Palestinian state in the near term, his efforts are designed to prevent it from ever materializing.

While Trump and his "peace" team (David Friedman, Jason Greenblatt, and Jared Kushner) never miss an opportunity to blame the Palestinian leadership for intransigence, they have done all in their power to destroy U.S. relations with the Palestinians. 

They targeted the two most emotive issues for the Palestinians – Jerusalem and refugees – purporting to take them "off the table." On Jerusalem, they radically changed U.S. policy by transferring the U.S. embassy there and declaring Jerusalem to be Israel’s capital, without saying anything about the capital of a future Palestinian state. 

On refugees, they not only terminated U.S. funding for UNRWA, the UN agency that provides humanitarian aid to Palestinian refugees, they used this and other humanitarian aid cuts as an attempt to scale back radically the definition and scope of the refugee problem. Trump went on to defund projects aimed at bolstering Palestinian institutions for a future state.

The latest volley in the anti-Palestinian barrage has gone largely unnoticed, crowded out by other breaking news. The hostile takeover of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem by the U.S. embassy to Israel downgrades the U.S. diplomatic mission to the Palestinians to a "Palestinian Affairs Unit" within the embassy, indicating that American policy toward the Palestinians is subordinate to U.S. bilateral relations with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his wife Tami on the USS Ross, docked in the Israeli port of Ashdod. October 11, 2018
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, his wife Sara, US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and his wife Tami on the USS Ross, docked in the Israeli port of Ashdod. October 11, 2018.AFP

In effect, the Trump administration is signaling an acceptance, if not embrace, of perpetual Israeli control of East Jerusalem and Israel’s accelerating process of annexing the West Bank. The administration is signaling that it sees Israel and the West Bank as one administrative entity. 

Eliminating the position of consul general in Jerusalem and making David Friedman the U.S. envoy to Palestinians further downgrades U.S.-Palestinian relations. Following President Trump’s closure of the PLO mission in Washington, the Trump team has undermined the last official channel for dialogue.

Meanwhile, placing America’s mechanism for reporting on West Bank settlements under the authority of Friedman, a long-time settlement booster and occupation denier, truly puts the fox in change of the henhouse.

As former U.S. ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer has argued, the "merger" of the consulate into the embassy is the capstone in the Trump team’s systematic deconstruction of seven decades of American policy toward the conflict. 

Mainstream American Jewish organizations have not produced a strategy to confront the Trump administration’s assault on the two-state solution. They have not even opposed individually the destructive steps taken by the Trump team. Israel’s friends know that perpetuating occupation will produce binationalism, entrench an apartheid-like status quo in the West Bank, and destroy Israel as a liberal democracy and national homeland for the Jewish people. 

American Jews know it, which is why they support the two-state solution by a 2:1 margin, according to a recent AJC poll.

If those mainstream American Jewish organizations care about Israel, it is well past time they publicly state that Trump’s policies are killing the two-state solution. Sheldon Adelson, the right-wing Jewish minority, conservative evangelical Christians, and the GOP love Friedman’s policies, and will happily stand by them.

We won’t change that. But a public assertion by groups identified with the vast majority of American Jews that Trump’s policies are harming Israel’s future could be a game-changer. 

As long as these organizations remain quiet, they are complicit.

This article appeared first on October 24, 2018 in Haaretz