Time To Prove Two-State Solution Isn’t Just Rhetoric
Wed, 07/18/2012
Rachel Lerner
Rachel Lerner

At 7:30 am on a recent Sunday, I spoke to more than 100 Presbyterians at their General Assembly in Pittsburgh.  I was one of two Jewish voices opposing their divestment resolution.  I had been urged to attend by colleagues in the organized Jewish community.  My voice, I was told, would be particularly helpful because of my work at J Street, advocating for a two-state solution.  

This was my second time around at a Presbyterian GA – the first was two years ago where I was the only Jew speaking to a larger audience of Presbyterians at an equally obscene hour on a Sunday morning about why divestment would bring the parties no closer to peace. 
 
It struck me, as I was being warmly congratulated by a leader in the Pittsburgh Jewish community, that while I’ve been welcomed at two Presbyterian GAs, I’ve never been invited to speak at a Jewish GA. 
 
Why the enthusiastic support among others in the pro-Israel community for my presence at the Presbyterian GA but not the Jewish one?  It’s been understood for some time by many that the most effective way to combat initiatives like divestment is by unifying diverse communal voices, in particular reaching out to voices on the left.  As noted in a recent paper by the Reut Institute, “the most effective voices against delegitimization often come from the 'left', … because of their ideological proximity to the (false) pretention of delegitimizers to serve peace, human rights and international law.”
 
 In other words, Presbyterians (and others considering tactics like divestment as a means of taking action on behalf of a just and lasting solution to the conflict) are more likely to listen to me because I spend most of my time advocating for bold and pro-active leadership for a two-state solution. So when I say divestment is the wrong path to peace, my words are credible.
 
My words, though – and even J Street’s voice – can only go so far without being backed up by voices and action in the rest of the organized Jewish community – and by voices and action in Israel. .
 
Jewish community leaders must do more than simply say we believe in a two-state solution.  There must be substance behind that language – and a major commitment by our community to make this work a critical priority. If we continue to fail to heed this call to action, the last and best chance to secure Israel’s democratic, Jewish future may well slip through our fingers, as movements like BDS will only grow stronger and more attractive to an increasing number of people. 
 
If a “broad tent approach” is nothing more than a strategy to look as though we care about Jewish values like democracy, peace and social justice, then it will surely fail – and fail miserably.  No one will be convinced for long.
 
The Jewish community cannot just look as though we are for a sensible, peaceful, and just solution to this conflict.  And it cannot only include organizations like J Street and voices like mine on panels about combating delegitimization or in community statements condemning BDS -- and then dismiss us as out of the bounds of community or as “anti-Israel” when we talk about the delegitimizing effects that the continued occupation in the West Bank have on Israel’s democratic character.  At some point it will have to take an active stand.  That time is now.
 
One week after the Presbyterian vote came down – one week after I told that room that there are more effective ways of moving Israelis and American Jews than BDS -- the Levy committee’s recommendations became public in Israel, asserting that the settlements are legal. The report drove home the dire implications of an occupation that is killing Israel’s future. Few in the organized Jewish community said anything in response.  This was not the first time the community has been nearly silent in the face of an Israeli move that threatened its own future as a Jewish democracy.
 
What our silence says to the outside world is not our biggest problem.  Because it doesn’t just look bad when our community is silent on issues like the Levy report.  It is bad.  If we let Israel go down this dangerous path, if we let it spiral toward a one-state nightmare without doing something to stop it, the democratic Jewish Israel that we love so much will disappear.  We will lose our precious homeland.
 
So I’ll continue to speak out against BDS initiatives, because I believe they are unhelpful to a democratic Jewish Israel, unhelpful to a two-state solution and unhelpful to peace. But unless our “broad tent” Jewish community demonstrates in word and deed that we are ready to do everything we can to advocate for Israel’s Jewish democratic future, we will not be convincing anyone.
 
Rachel Lerner is the vice president of the J Street Education Fund.
 

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A few years ago, Israel withdrew from all of Gaza and handed over to the Palestinians millions of dollars of income producing agricultural assets. In return, Israel received approximately 8000 missiles aimed at her over a two year period. Great target practice for Palestinian thugs; not so good for normal life of Israeli citizens. Before that, Israel withdrew from all of Lebanon which idealists said would bring peace to the region. The benefit to Hezubullah, the enemy of Israel and sworn to her destruction, was enormous. This Iranian sponsored terrorist group now controls Lebanon's government. Not so good for Israel because estimates are that now at least 15,000 long range missiles which can hit Tel Aviv are stockpiled there. Idealists in the US and Israel said return the Golan Heights to Syria in exchange for peace. That would have worked out real well now, wouldn't it have? I could go on, but is it really necessary? The majority of the comments on this page are critical of Israel's policy, which I find interesting. In Syria alone, in the past 18 months alone, far more Arabs have been butchered, murdered and cruelly slaughtered by other Arabs than all of the Arabs who died fighting Israel over 63 years. Where is the critical commentary of Arab nations? I believe that when a fair history of the 'Arab Spring' is eventually written, it will go down as one of the vastest eruptions of hatred, depravity, and violence ever - including Nazi Germany. Sure, you can bite Israel's ankles for a fault here or a mistake there. But if you downplay Arab barbarism and the impossibility for Israel of relating to it, you don't just make a mistake - you are going to get someone killed.

Doing “everything we can to advocate for Israel’s Jewish democratic future” must include the recognition that for decades the Palestinians have only pretended to negotiate, turning down every offer of peace. Their only counter offer has been the cry to “liberate Palestine from the river to the sea.”

Doing “everything we can” must include the recognition that the opposing party may not actually wish to achieve peace. History is full of examples. It is not difficult to make the case that the greatest, perhaps the only, steps toward peace have been achieved through Israeli military victories.

Doing “everything we can” must include frank demands on the Palestinians, and support for our American elected officials to pressure the Palestinians at least as much as they pressure Israel.

Doing “everything we can to advocate for Israel’s Jewish democratic future” must include support for our American elected officials to pressure the Palestinians to put an end to rockets and mortars fired on Israeli citizens.

Doing “everything we can to advocate for Israel’s Jewish democratic future” must include support for international pressure to put an end to the ever growing animosity and hatred toward Jews and Israel that is spread throughout the Middle East to children of the youngest ages.

Doing “everything we can” must not include demands of Israel that are tantamount to capitulation.

My heart aches. Israel is at war, both internally and externally… by forces such as the Levy Committee report on the settlements and by Divestment efforts (such as those proposed by the Presbyterian GA and opposed by the courageous Rachel Lerner). President Netanyahu’s ‘settlement strategy’; usurpation of Palestinian lands, legislative assault of the country’s democratic institutions, mob violence against the African refugees… these are not moving the country towards peace. These actions threaten not only the basic building blocks placed by the founders, they threaten the future of Israel as a free and democratic state.

Rachel Lerner’s eloquent op-ed article in this weeks’ NY Jewish Week gets it right. The divestment argument is bogus. In order to achieve true peace with a two-state solution, there must be real progress toward ending the occupation. This can only be achieved through the persistent and forceful presence of President Obama and American leadership. I deeply believe that is so.

There is power in Rachel’s voice and the J Street voice. And by endorsing those who seek congressional office and who hold a similar viewpoint, J Street gives necessary ‘air cover’ so they can speak truth to power, in a voice which we all know, in our hearts, is true.

As a late riser, I commend Rachel Lerner not only for speaking to the Presbyterians at 7:30 A.M. on a Sunday (!), but for undoubtedly helping to save the day regarding their threatened divestment resolution. One must ask one's self, what does the right wing hope to accomplish globally - and let's use the threatened Presbyterian divestment resolution as a small example - by denying the very basic tenants of Judaism? Are they not aware that their positions on continued settlement building, mob violence against African refugees, legislative actions against democratic philosophy, etc. are grist for the mill of anti-semitism?
Let us hope that the logic of Rachel Lerner is contagious.

The American Jewish community and all supporters of Israel owe a debt of gratitude to J Street and young leaders like Rachel Lerner for their efforts to combat the delegimization of Israel. It's not a question of pandering to Presbyterians. The real issue is that if delegimization gains traction within American public opinion because of Israel's unfortunate policies in the occupied territories, supporters of Israel will eventually have a more difficult time advocating for Israel's legitimate interests in the US political arena.

I am very proud of smart, young, Jewish leaders, like Rachel, who are the future of the Jewish people. Unfortunately, smart, young, and Jewish is, at times, wrong. 1) With the utmost respect for the Presbyterians of Pittsburgh, it doesn't hurt my feelings if they disapprove of Israel. Furthermore, it is cowardly and counter-productive for US Jews to pander to their sensibilities. Again, no disrespect to Presbyterians, but they do not have the knowledge and true understanding of Israel that actual Israelis have, and many US Jews. By what right and special knowledge do they presume to judge Israel? By the way, what is the policy of the Presbyterian Assembly concerning Syria, Libya, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, and Iran to name just a few dubious actors in the Middle East? Are the Presbyterians boycotting Arab oil and I didn't hear about it? Publish the BDS against Arab oil and barbarism and I'm there.
2) The real issue here is not Jewish self-respect - as important as that is. The real issue is the 2-state 'solution'. Many observers, in and outside Israel, are saying that a 2-state solution is unworkable and destructive because a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria would quickly/immediately become a terrorist state and make normal life in Israel impossible. Let me try to make a long story short. The history of the region and the facts on the ground, today, absolutely, positively, refute the notion that a 2-state solution is possible or advisable because Hamas would quickly take over and turn the territories into another missile launching pad like Gaza. Like all peoples, Arabs will not change their opinions, culture, behavior, biases, etc. in weeks, or months, or even years. The enemies of Israel yesterday, will, without doubt, be enemies of Israel tomorrow.
In conclusion, I love smart, young Jewish leaders, because many of them eventually learn to distinguish between hope and reality and find their inner common sense.

Kudos to Rachael Lerner. She tells how J Street was able to successfully oppose a resolution in favor of divestment from Israel at the recent Presbyterian General Assembly. Basically what J Street did and does is provide an alternative to a unilateral stance towards Israel and provides a forum for those who want to bring all inhabitants of the land into dialogue with the articulated goal of a two state solution. Fortunately the Presbyterians voted before the release of the Levy report, which on a quick read leaves no sense that Israel is thinking about a two state solution.

Kudos to Rachael Lerner, Vice President of the J Street Education Fund on her article “Time To Prove Two-State Solution Isn’t Just Rhetoric” posted July 18, 2012. She tells how J Street was able to successfully oppose a resolution in favor of divestment from Israel at the recent Presbyterian General Assembly. Basically what J Street did and does is provide an alternative to a unilateral stance towards Israel and provides a forum for those who want to bring all inhabitants of the land into dialogue with the articulated goal of a two state solution. Fortunately the Presbyterians voted before the release of the Levy report, which on a quick read leaves no sense that Israel is thinking about a two state solution.

Thank you, Rachel Lerner, for writing this. A two-state solution is necessary before it's too late, and it's time the American Jewish community started to realize that.

She certainly did nail it. There is absolutely nothing that proponents of BDS can do or say that deligitimizes Israel in the eyes of world public opinion than the construction and expansion of settlements.

Nailed it.

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