Statement- Jewish Leaders’ Letter to President Biden: Time to Take Concrete Actions to Stop Netanyahu’s Assault on Israeli Democracy

Americans for Peace Now (APN) today sent a letter to President Biden signed by 163 Jewish leaders who care about Israel’s future, calling on the President to take concrete action to safeguard Israeli democracy.

The letter is unique in going past generic statements and calling for specific actions that the President can take to assert his concern about the Israeli government damaging its shared values with the United States. By doing so, the letter says, Biden would “protect Israel's future and its relationship with the United States.”

APN urged prominent American Jewish leaders to endorse the letter, and within days gathered an impressive group of signers. 

Alex Soros, Chair, Open Society Foundations, said: “Americans who care about Israel are horrified to see the government assault on the state’s democratic norms and institutions.  President Biden’s concerns went unheeded. The time has come to take action to protect Israel's democracy and America’s interests in the region.”

Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers President and APN Board of Directors member said: "President Biden stands for democracy at home and around the world. Israel needs him now, to embrace all who are fighting to protect and deepen democracy at such a critical time." 

Hadar Susskind, Americans for Peace Now’s President and CEO, said: “We sent this letter because Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that he will not heed President Biden’s words, so it is time to move to actions. We are gratified to see that so many Jewish leaders joined us in signing this letter and we hope that President Biden will follow our advice.”

Following is the full text of the letter. To view the letter as a PDF and to see the full list of signers, please follow THIS LINK.

Dear President Biden,

Thank you for your unwavering commitment to upholding democracy and for your considerable efforts to deter Prime Minister Netanyahu from proceeding with the judicial overhaul In Israel. Your expressions of concern for Israel’s democracy and your frank criticisms of the Israeli government’s campaign to weaken the country’s judiciary has helped buoy the popular opposition to this alarming democratic backsliding. 

Sadly, we must acknowledge that warnings from the United States did not ultimately prevent the Israeli government from acting on this agenda. As a result, we now find ourselves at a critical juncture where further actions are necessary to safeguard the democratic values the US -Israel relationship is founded upon.

As American Jewish leaders who care deeply about Israel and wish to see it fulfilling its founding values of democracy, freedom, justice, and peace, we share your sentiment of deep concern for Israel’s future.

While deeply appreciative of your public expressions of concern, we are urging you to go beyond words and to take decisive action to demonstrate the seriousness of the situation.

Mr. President, The current Israeli government’s campaign is so severe and so consequential that it merits a proportionate reaction by Israel’s chief ally, the United States of America.  

Therefore, we believe that the time has come to take concrete action to send a clear message to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. Going beyond words will make clear to Netanyahu’s government that its actions come with a price. Where there are fewer shared values, the special relationship becomes less special.

It is not our intention to advocate for punitive measures against Israel, neither the state nor the people. Most Israelis oppose their government’s anti-democratic campaign. Hundreds of thousands of them have been protesting the government’s insistence on weakening the Supreme Court, which works to guarantee basic rights and liberties of all Israelis. These patriots deserve praise, not punishment.

While Netanyahu’s government seems oblivious to domestic protest, it justifiably cares about Israel’s relationship with Washington. This relationship is Israel’s chief strategic asset.

To protect Israel's future and its relationship with the United States, we urge you to consider several concrete measures that your administration could take including but not limited to: 

  • Appointing a new Ambassador to Israel immediately, as the gravity of this crisis requires the highest levels of diplomacy
  • Taking steps to reopen a separate US consulate in Jerusalem which would serve the Palestinian population in the West Bank and Gaza
  • Reissuing the US customs guidance on settlement labeling to accurately reflect the distinction between Israel and the West Bank settlements, aligning with longstanding US policy
  • No longer automatically preventing efforts to hold Israel accountable at the United Nations for its settlement activities and human rights violations against Palestinians
  • Ensuring that Israel meets all requirements, including reciprocal treatment for all American citizens, before considering its admission into the Visa Waiver Program
  • Communicating to the Israeli government that the evolving state of Israel's democracy will figure into the deliberations for the upcoming ten-year MOU between the US and Israel
  • Taking efforts to elevate the Palestinian diplomatic mission in the US and foster meaningful engagement with Palestinian diplomats in the US

We firmly believe that taking these specific actions will underscore the United States' commitment to democratic values, human rights, and peace in the region. By leveraging the US-Israel special relationship, we can encourage Israel's government to reevaluate its current trajectory and uphold the founding values of democracy, freedom, justice, and peace.

Thank you for your attention to this critical matter, and we stand ready to support any efforts to preserve Israel's democracy and safeguard its future.

(Signed 163 Jewish leaders)