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Israel’s Settlements Policy Is Making an Impact on Jewish Opinion as Criticism Mounts

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2011

The collapse of the Middle East peace process and Israel’s persistence in building settlements on the occupied West Bank have had an impact upon Jewish opinion both in the U.S. and throughout the world.  
In November, a leader of the British Jewish community publicly criticized Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu for the waning peace talks and insisted that Anglo-Zionists begin to voice their opinions on the matter.  
Mick Davis, chairman of the London-based United Jewish Israel Appeal (UJIA) and executive of the Jewish Leadership Council, warned at the London Jewish Cultural Center that unless there was a two-state solution with the Palestinians, Israel could become an apartheid state, “because we then have the majority going to be governed by the minority.” He went on to declare that Netanyahu lacked the courage and the strategy to take the steps to lead to peace in the Middle East.  
According to the International Jerusalem Post (Dec. l7-23, 2010), “many prominent Jews in public positions defended his (Davis’) remarks, noting that it was high time ‘that honest and open discussions’ about Israel took place in the public arena ... A growing desire to openly criticize Israel is moving from the fringes of the Jewish community into the mainstream.”  
When the Obama Administration discussed the idea of providing Israel with a $3 billion security assis-tance package if Israel would simply agree to a 90-day settlements freeze to resume talks with the Palestini-ans, this was not only rejected by Israel but was harshly criticized even by some of Israel’s long-time friends in Washington.  
In an op-ed in The Washington Post (Nov. 21, 2010), Daniel Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel who now teaches at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, and an Orthodox Jew, declared that the idea of the U.S. rewarding “Israel’s bad deed” was a bad one; “And while Washington will almost certainly come to regret bribing Israel, Israel may regret receiving such a bribe even more. Previously, U.S. opposition to settlements resulted in penalties, not rewards, for continued construction. Washington deducted from its loan guarantees to Israel an amount equivalent, dollar for dollar, to the money that Israel spent in the occupied territories. While it’s true that the U.S. has turned a blind eye to indirect U.S. subsidies for Israeli activities in the territories — such as tax deductions for American organizations that fund settlements — the deal now being offered to Israel is of a totally different magnitude. If it goes forward, it will be the first direct benefit that the U.S. has provided Israel for settlement activities that we have opposed for more than 40 years.”  
Discussing the role being played by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, The Forward (Jan. 7, 2011) declared: “...if Netanyahu persists in keeping Lieberman, both men should know this: The obligation we assume as Diaspora Jews to support Israel, and combat delegitimization becomes much harder, more distasteful and less effective every time the foreign minister opens his mouth. It betrays our Judaic and civic values to stand by while such a man advocates for the transfer of Arab citizens of Israel, for a discriminatory loyalty oath, and for an endless postpone-ment of peace negotiations that are the only — the only — way to ensure that Israel remains Jewish and democratic.”  
According to The Forward, “American Jewish communal organizations are now spending millions of dollars to combat what is perceived to be a new, aggressive attempt to delegitimize Israel as a Jewish state. That is money that could be used at home to feed the hungry, educate our young, care for the sick and elderly and ensure the future of Israel’s most vibrant, important friend. We don’t stop loving Israel because of Avigdor Lieberman. But he makes it damn hard to support his government.”  

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© 2010 The American Council For Judaism.