On April 9, Israeli voters went to the polls and reelected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a landslide to serve a fifth term as prime minister.
The vote was notable for two reasons. First, it was taken in defiance of the clearly expressed will of Israel’s media and its governing elites. Israel’s liberal media outlets essentially served as the campaign directors of Netanyahu’s political opponents.
For their part, Israel’s overwhelmingly liberal bureaucratic elites, represented in the elections by Israel’s Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit, made a naked bid to unseat Netanyahu through legal fiat. Barely a month before the April 9 vote, Mandelblit announced that he intended to indict Netanyahu in three criminal probes of specious origins and legal foundations pending a pre-indictment hearing.
The second reason the election results were notable was because in an eleventh-hour appeal to voters, Netanyahu pledged to apply Israeli law to parts of Judea and Samaria.
Judea and Samaria, otherwise known as the West Bank, are parts of the historic land of Israel that Israel took control over 52 years ago in the 1967 Six Day War. Nearly a half million Israelis live in Judea and Samaria today. Perpetual Israeli control over the vast majority of the areas is essential from a strategic perspective. Without control over its eastern frontier and the approaches to its major population and industrial centers, Israel’s very existence will be threatened. This is particularly true in light of the instability of the Arab world.
Since 1993, the future of Judea and Samaria has been the subject of negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Despite the fact that negotiations ended to all practical effect in 2000, when the Palestinians rejected an Israeli offer to transfer control over 95 percent of Judea and Samaria to them in exchange for peace, and opted instead to wage a massive terror war against the Jewish state, due to international pressure, Israel has been unable to extricate itself from the negotiations framework.
That framework requires Israel to hold Judea and Samaria in effective escrow, harming basic legal rights to the Israelis who live in the areas, in the hope that one day the Palestinians will accept peace. Since 2000, the Palestinians rejected even more generous offers of territory from Israel and from the Obama administration, and opted instead to maintain and escalate their political and terror war against the Jewish state.
Over the past dozen years, as more and more Israelis recognized that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, and that in the face of gross instability in the Arab world, Israel can no longer condition its long-term strategic and national viability on a chimerical peace deal with Palestinian terrorists, a growing chorus of Israeli politicians and opinion shapers, (including this writer) has called for Israel to apply its law to all or parts of Judea and Samaria.
In 2017, Netanyahu’s Likud party endorsed applying Israeli law to the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. Fearing an international backlash, Netanyahu refused to back the move.
But three days before the elections, Netanyahu pledged in a television interview that if reelected he will apply Israeli law to the Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria.
And he won, in a landslide.
American Jewish leaders on both sides of the partisan aisle routinely applaud Israel’s democracy. They argue that it is Israel’s democracy that forms the basis of U.S. support for the Jewish state. In light of this consistent position, American Jewish leaders across the partisan divide could have been expected to celebrate the elections and the vibrancy of Israeli democracy and the independent mindedness of Israeli voters.
But this did not happen. While conservative Jewish American groups congratulated Israelis for their open democracy, liberal American Jewish groups responded to the Israeli election results by throwing a collective fit.
This fit took the form of a letter to President Donald Trump by ten liberal Jewish groups. The letter was notable for two reasons. First, the groups that signed it have been among Trump’s worst critics not only in the American Jewish community but in the wider American body politic. The Reform and Conservative religious movements, which together encompass the majority of American Jews, have boycotted conference calls that Trump has held with Jewish leaders.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), another signatory to the letter, has published misleading data regarding antisemitic attacks in the U.S. with the apparent goal of blaming Trump for anti-Jewish violence and discrimination.
In their April 12 letter, the ten groups “strongly urged” Trump to “pledge that any peace initiative your administration proposes will be based upon the principle of a negotiated two-state solution,” and “to clearly express your opposition to unilateral measures outside of this framework, including annexation by Israel of any territory in the West Bank.”
Ironically, the anti-Trump groups insisted that allowing the democratically elected Israeli government to implement the policy it was elected on would “put [Israel’s] core interest in maintaining a Jewish and democratic state at risk.”
The groups’ letter to Trump reveals two distressing facts about the state of these groups and about liberal American Jewry as a whole.
First, while they may represent more than half of American Jews, these organizations are rendering themselves irrelevant. The so-called “two-state solution” to which they maintain slavish devotion has no chance of being implemented. The Palestinians simply do not want it. They don’t want a state that will live side by side with Israel. They want to eliminate Israel.
That is why the Trump administration is walking away from the two-state formula. And this is why no major Israeli political party on the right or on the left ran on a platform calling for its implementation.
In all likelihood, these Jewish groups, which overwhelmingly oppose President Trump, are insisting that the administration join them in rejecting any policy other than Israeli surrender of Judea and Samaria to Palestinian terrorists for political reasons. To maintain their position in the Democratic Party, which is rapidly abandoning its traditional support for Israel, these groups are demanding that both Israel and the Trump administration maintain allegiance to Barack Obama’s Middle East policies in relation to the Palestinians.
This is a pathetic position. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted on April 14, the two-state framework has failed for forty years. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that it will ever work. By insisting that it never be abandoned, these liberal Jewish groups are embracing failure.
Moreover, the two-state paradigm, which requires Israel to keep its most vital national and strategic interests in limbo to appease terrorists that will never be appeased, is a policy paradigm that is inherently hostile to Israel. By insisting that the two-state paradigm never be abandoned, these liberal Jewish groups are committing themselves to an agenda that is deeply hostile to the Jewish state.
The liberal Jewish groups’ position is also pathetic because the Democratic Party they desperately wish to support no longer takes their views into consideration in any significant way. The fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refuses to condemn Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) despite her open hatred for Jews signals that liberal American Jews are no longer a force to be reckoned with in Democratic politics.
So, too, the fact that no major Democratic presidential hopefuls will take effective action to combat the self-evidently antisemitic BDS campaign against Israel and its American Jewish supporters indicates that the next Democratic presidential nominee will not be pro-Israel.
Beyond the political implications of the move, the letter to Trump reveals a deeper, and even more tragic aspect, of liberal American Jewry. The very fact that this is the battle these groups have chosen to pick indicates that they have either lost sight of their larger role in the lives of American Jewry, or that liberal American Jews no longer believe these groups have a larger role to play in their lives, or both.
The letter was written a week before the Passover holiday began. Passover is the celebration of the birth of the Jewish nation, with G-d’s liberation of the Jews from slavery in Pharaoh’s Egypt. Jews throughout the world, including in the United States, observe Passover. For many U.S. Jews, it is one of the few times each year when they devote themselves to their Jewish identity and faith.
And yet, a week before Passover, the big statement the leaders Reform and Conservative Judaism in America felt it was most critical for them to express was one that had nothing to do with Judaism or Jewish peoplehood or freedom. Indeed, it was a statement antithetical to all of those things.
The fact that a week before Passover the leaders of these groups felt it was a good idea to sign on to a political statement expressing contempt for Israeli democracy and demanding adherence to a policy rejected by the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews, in order to lock the U.S. into a failed policy that is antithetical to Israel’s most basic interests, shows that they don’t think they can sustain or even need a broader goal than supporting Obama’s anti-Israel policies.
In other words: They care more about Obama’s anti-Israel policies than Israeli democracy. This is the true tragedy of liberal American Jewry.
Caroline Glick is a world-renowned journalist and commentator on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, and the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East. She is running for Israel’s Knesset as a member of the Yamin Hahadash (New Right) party in Israel’s parliamentary elections, scheduled for April 9. Read more at www.CarolineGlick.com.