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American Jewish Groups Express Concern about the Apparent Abandonment of a “Two State” Solution

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2017

At his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in February,  
President Trump abandoned decades of bipartisan U.S. policy and declared  
that the U.S. would no longer insist on the creation of a Palestinian state  
as part of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.  
If Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing a peace agreement, those with  
experience in the region say that he must inevitably return to a two-state  
solution. “If you do a system¬atic analysis of the situation, there is no  
other option,” said Daniel C. Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and  
Egypt. “There are Israelis who believe they could get away with giving the  
Palestinians minimal political rights, but they are fooling themselves.”  
Those in Israel and the American Jewish community who want a genuine and  
just peace between Israel and the Palestinians have expressed concern. Peace  
Now called the Trump-Netanyahu press conference “terrifying.” It declared:  
“The two leaders are not only depriving Israel of the very possibility of  
reaching peace but also undermining Israel’s own future as a democracy and a  
Jewish state. They are delivering a huge victory to extremists on both  
J Street, which describes itself as “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” stated: To  
be clear there is no one-state configuration that leads to peace. There is  
no resolution to this conflict without full political rights and  
independence for both peoples. All so-called ‘one state solutions’ are  
recipes for more violence that will ultimately threaten Israel’s identity as  
a democracy and a Jewish homeland.”  
The Union for Reform Judaism declared: “Only a two-state solution can  
achieve the goals of the Israelis and Palestinians. We see President Trump’s  
abdication of the long-time, bipartisan support for a two-state solution  
darkly. It is potentially devastating to the prospects for peace and  
Israel’s Jewish, democratic future.”  
The appointment of David Friedman, Mr. Trumps’ bankruptcy attorney and  
supporter of West Bank settlements, who has called for Israel to annex the  
occupied territories, has also stirred much controversy. He has referred to  
Jews who support a two-state solution as “kapos,” Jews who assisted the  
Nazis during World War II. He charged former President Barack Obama with  
“blatant anti-Semitism.” (At his Senate confirmation hearing, he apologized  
for such statements).  
Jewish organizations that have never before opposed anyone named to be U.S.  
Ambassador to Israel embarked upon a campaign to thwart Friedman’s  
confirmation. These groups include Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, the New  
Israel Fund and Jewish Voice for Peace. Hundreds of rabbis and cantors  
signed petitions opposing his confirmation, as did Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who  
heads the Union for Reform Judaism.  
Daniel Sokatch, whose New Israel Fund advocates for civil rights in Israel,  
said that Friedman holds views directly in opposition to the organization’s  
values of tolerance and mutual respect: “Here’s a person with no diplomatic  
experience, who’s been put in a position to be the ambassador to one of our  
most important allies and who holds extreme views. It’s like throwing a  
lighted match into a tinderbox.”  
Five former U.S. ambassadors to Israel circulated a letter describing  
Friedman as unqualified because of his “extreme” and “radical positions.”  
Writing in Washington Jewish Week (Feb. 16, 2017), Rep. Jaime Raskin (D-MD)  
notes that, “Friedman’s relentless denunc¬iation of Democrats and liberal  
Jews mark him as a polemicist unfit to represent the American people as  
ambassador anywhere, above all to Israel where he is a partisan actor in the  
conflicts of the day … He is no diplomat … but a firebrand activist openly  
contemptuous of the two-state solution … Friedman’s selection is a wrecking  
ball in American politics and specifically the Jewish community, which needs  
reconciliation and dialogue, not more division and polarization. … Now is a  
moment that calls for maximum prudence and diplomacy in office, cultural  
bridge-building and creative political action to break the brutal logic of  
hatred and war …”  
Writing in Mondoweiss (Feb. 28, 2017), Philip Weiss argues that the 50th  
anniversary of the occupation will “rock the Jewish establishment.” He notes  
that, “...the American Jewish community is going to hit an iceberg called  
the Jubilee, the 50th anniversary of the occupation/Six Day War. The  
collision is going to change the Jewish establishment. The fractures that  
have been developing for years over Israel are going to break out in public  
agony. The anniversary will change the American Jewish relationship to  
Israel for a long time, as the Six-Day War did fifty years ago. Young Jews  
will take charge, young anti-Zionists will be welcomed into some synagogues,  
and some will speak up for BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) against  
Israel … There is a great positive movement afoot in the Jewish community …  
The ’67 war married American Jews to a militant state as their primary form  
of identity in the shadow of the Holocaust; but the Jubilee year is going to  
mark the divorce.” •

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