The letter that nine well-established Jewish organizations had sent last week to President Donald Trump urging him to veto Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election vow to annex the West Bank – and a general anti-annexation statement issued by four longtime and stalwart Congressional supporters of Israel – have created quite a stir.
The organizational letter was signed by the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Union for Reform Judaism; the Conservative movement’s United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbinical Assembly and Mercaz. The letter was also signed by the Anti-Defamation League, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Israel Policy Forum and Ameinu, a liberal Zionist group. The four members of Congress were Eliot Engel, Nita Lowey, Ted Deutch and Brad Schneider.
The organizational letter was a startling development, apparently the first time that substantial Jewish groups differing with Israeli policy sought to persuade an American government to impose their views on the Jewish state – the height of chutzpah. But it seems to us that while the statement by the members of Congress did not cross a red line in an important sense, it amounted to the same effect as the organizational letter and may well be unprecedented.
It would have been easier to accept had the letter and the Congress members spoken about the effect annexation would have on American interests abroad. But neither spoke in those terms. Rather, they offered their views as to the negatives to Israeli interests in terms of security, relations with its neighbors and popular support in America.
Sorry, but Israel doesn’t need public lectures about how to pursue its own interests. This is especially true since Netanyahu was overwhelmingly re-elected within days of his annexation promise.
There are two related concerns. Trump has been wildly supportive of Israel in a number of ways, particularly the withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal; relocation of the American Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and annexation of the Golan, to name a few. So there should be great care taken to ensure that support for Israel not become a partisan issue.
In addition, Trump has regularly maintained that the negotiating model for Israel-Palestinian negotiations has not worked. The linchpin of this model has been that a Palestinian state was a given result. Perhaps putting that issue up for grabs would be a way of countering Palestinian recalcitrance.