New York State Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Queens) is a candidate in New York’s 6th Congressional District in the June 26 Democratic primary. Lancman, who served as an officer in New York’s 42nd infantry division and as a local community board member, recently met with The Jewish Press Editorial Board. He addressed Israel and local issues.
The Jewish Press: In general, should the U.S. tilt toward Israel in disputes with its neighbors? What is the basis for your position?
Assemblyman Lancman: Fairness and the pursuit of our national interest dictate that the U.S. support Israel in its disputes with its neighbors. Our struggle against terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism is a common one; so is our pioneering spirit and commitment to democracy. Israel has been a loyal and steadfast ally of the United States throughout the Cold War and the struggle against terrorism. Its public institutions are the most stable and accountable in the region. Compare the stability of Israel to Lebanon, where Hizbullah runs its own militia and sits in the government, or to Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood routinely harasses religious minorities and the Salafist movement seeks to abrogate the peace treaty with Israel, or to Syria, where the choice lies between the Assad dictatorship and an opposition that is equally determined to destroy Israel.
Is Israel treated fairly in the UN and its affiliated agencies? Should the United States support Israel when it is attacked in the UN and other international organizations?
When you look at the lopsided votes against Israel at the United Nations, you come away with one of two conclusions: that a nation the size of New Jersey is the biggest menace to world peace, or that our generation is experiencing the greatest expression of anti-Jewish bigotry since the 1930s. When you look at the prewar period, not a single world power stood up to express opposition to the Nazi threat, and few European Jews were given refuge by the democratic powers. Today, how many nations have the courage to say that Israel has fulfilled its obligations, while the Palestinians have not? If the UN cannot responsibly fulfill its mission, we have the right to speak out; our laws enshrine this principle. This is why we withdrew funding from UNESCO as a result of its recognition of Palestinian statehood.
Do you believe, as does President Obama, that the 1967 borders, with “swaps,” should be the starting point for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians on final borders? Why?
The 1967 lines were never a recognized border for Israel, and it is dangerous to employ “1967 borders” as terminology in support of peace. It is, as the last three years of failure in moving the peace process forward even one inch have shown, an invitation to Palestinian intransigence and, worse, to the continued delusion that such “over the Green Line” locations as the Old City, the Mount of Olives and the burial sites of most of our biblical prophets would ever leave Jewish sovereignty. Indeed, prior to 1967, the Mount of Olives was desecrated, and Jews were forbidden from praying at the Kotel and at the tombs of our patriarchs. The starting point for negotiations with the Palestinians begins and ends with the borders necessary to secure and defend Israel and the historic presence of Jews in the land of Israel. It is unacceptable that while Israel extends full rights to its 1.6 million Arab citizens, the international community demands that certain territory deemed Palestinian be Judenfrei.
Should Israel halt settlement building as a precondition for negotiations with the Palestinians? Why?
Jews have a right to live anywhere in the world, especially anywhere within the Jewish homeland. It is immoral to suggest otherwise, and Israel has demonstrated its willingness and ability to make territorial compromise, including in territory where Jews live, in exchange for peace. The issue is a fig leaf for the Palestinian leadership’s failure to prepare the Palestinian people for a realistic peace settlement, and its failure to develop the considerable amount of territory under Palestinian control into a stable, democratic, peaceful society.