Home  Principles & Statements  Positions of the ACJ  Articles  DonationsAbout Us  Contact Us  Links                                         

Despite Setbacks, Many Prominent Jewish Voices Speak Out in Support of the Middle East “Road Map” to Peace

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
September-October 2003

Despite recent setbacks in the Middle East, Hyman Bookbinder, a long-time Jewish activist in Washington, calls for renewed support for the Bush Administration’s “road map” to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, although he criticizes the administration for not doing enough to advance its agenda.  

Writing in The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper (Sept. 16, 2003), Bookbinder declares: “In May, I was among 108 pro-Israel Democrats who wrote to each of you (Democratic presidential candidates) urging support for President Bush’s efforts to implement the ‘roadmap’ to Israeli-Palestinian peace - the best means to end the bloody status quo that threatens Israel’s security, regional stability and American interests’ - and not create obstacles by criticizing him. Now I hope you will take on the president because his administration has been missing in action. Despite recent horrible terrorist attacks in Israel and the upheaval in Palestinian leadership, the roadmap is not dead, but the administration has not been doing enough to implement it.”  

Bookbinder notes that, “The roadmap insisted that the two sides act simultaneously. This does not suggest equivalence between terrorist attacks and Israeli settlements of disputed land, but simultaneity is critical to demonstrate that both sides are serious about peacemaking. ... the administration has been ineffective. It has not demonstrated an ability to work with Israel on settlements, or helped find a way to overcome this serious obstacle to the peace process. The White House dispatched an envoy to the region tasked with monitoring compliance, but no formal monitoring mechanism has been set up. And there are no American officials on the ground with a presidential mandate to tell the parties what they need to do, when they need to do it and what the consequences will be if they don’t do it.”  

He concludes that, “The administration should return to the constructive engagement that led us, even in an election year, to urge bipartisanship. If President Bush stays true to his pledge to ‘ride herd,’ then I will stay true to ours and support those policies.”  

Writing in The Forward (Sept. 12, 2003), Theodore Mann, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and former chairman of the Israel Policy Forum, urges American Jewish leaders to call upon House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas), an opponent of the road map, to reconsider his views.  

Mann writes that, “I hope the moderate leaders of our community, who support the road map and thus represent the views of most American Jews, will urge him to reconsider his positions. Delay inadvertently did more harm than good to erect obstacles to the Bush administration’s fragile peace plan, which he has called a ‘road map to disaster.’ It may be hoped that the media furor caused by his summer trip to Israel has made him think twice about repeating statements like ‘I can’t imagine the president supporting a state of terrorism, a sovereign state of terrorists.’ The president, of course, supports no such thing. In fact, the administration sees its diplomatic effort to achieve a Palestinian state as a critical component of the war against terrorism. Delay’s statement implies that a Palestinian state of any kind is a non-starter.”  

When he told the Israeli Knesset that “there is no middle ground, no moderate position worth taking,” Delay, in Mann’s view, “provided support for an idea that is more dangerous to Israel than any of the risks inherent in the road map: the one-state solution. If he has not backed away from these positions, community leaders have an opportunity and a responsibility to explain why he should. They should start by describing an alarming trend: growing support for the premise that Israel should annex the territories and either forcibly expel the Palestinians or give them second-class citizenship. This notion, which is endorsed by far-right Israeli and American Jews, is also supported by so-called ‘Christian Zionists,’ with whom Delay publicly associates himself.”  

Mann concludes: “Time is running out on the two-state solution ... There is a growing, gnawing sense that the two state idea will not be viable unless real progress toward a deal is made soon ... The end of the two-state option in the minds of both Israelis and Palestinians would doom them, and the world, to conflict and turmoil for generations. I hope that, while thanking him (DeLay) for his ardent support of the Jewish state, American Jewish leaders will tell Delay he will help Israel by taking a new, moderate and more temperate tack.”  

At the same time, Jewish leaders have expressed concern about Israeli declarations that Yasser Arafat should be either exiled or killed. Abraham Forman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, called the assassination threats “silly and counter-productive.” The American Jewish Committee reaffirmed its commitment to the peace process leading to a two-state solution and Rabbi Eric Yoffie, head of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, criticized the threat to kill Arafat and said, “The Jewish community should be encouraging American involvement. This is a time of confusion and some despair ... But ... I don’t believe that the fundamental dynamics of the situation have changed.” Others - including the American Jewish Congress and the Zionist Organization of America - endorsed the Israeli declarations about Arafat’s future. According to The Forward (Sept. 19, 2003), “The leading pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said the organization was not working to garner support for the controversial Cabinet decision (concerning Arafat) ...”  

< return to article list
© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.