Michael Boyden
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An open letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren

There must be a way for the US to put pressure on a right-wing Israeli government that doesn't harm the Jewish state's ability to defend itself
Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, speaks during the first day of the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum held August 19, 2019 at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa. (Tim Hynds/ Sioux City Journal via AP)
Elizabeth Warren, 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, speaks during the first day of the Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum held August 19, 2019 at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa. (Tim Hynds/ Sioux City Journal via AP)

Dear Senator Warren,

You have been reported as having suggested the possibility of ending support for Israel.

I am originally from England. I made aliyah to Israel 35 years ago, because I feel privileged to have been born in a generation where Jews have a sovereign state. My father fled from Nazi Germany. My son, Yonatan, was killed in action by the Hezbollah while defending Israel’s northern border.

Politically, I am a “middle-of-the-road” Israeli. I used to be left-wing and go around with a Shalom Achshav (Peace Now) sticker on my car until the Second Intifada, when more than 1,000 Israelis were murdered and many thousands more injured and maimed for life by Palestinian terrorists, while walking along our streets, sitting in our cafes and visiting our shopping malls . (Look at how 9/11 affected America. And we have a population of just 8 million.)

I am no fanatic. I don’t believe in an Israel occupying all of the land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan. On the other hand, I am a realist. I know that, were there to be elections on the West Bank (which are long overdue), the Palestinian Authority would be ousted and would be replaced by Hamas, which, as you know, is Iran’s proxy in the region.

I believe in a two-state solution, but am not naïve enough to believe that this is achievable before the Palestinians are prepared to accept the right of a Jewish state to exist in the Middle East. Unfortunately, they are not there yet, and they teach their children that one day they will return to Lod and Jaffa, and that Israel will be destroyed with blood and fire. We don’t bring up our kids that way!

Secretary of Defense, Robert M. Gates, who served in President Obama’s administration, said: “our bilateral relationship and this dialogue is so critical, because Israel lives at the focal point of some of the biggest security challenges facing the free world: violent extremism, the proliferation of nuclear technologies, and the dilemmas posed by adversarial and failed states. And I think it important, especially at a time of such dramatic change in the region, to reaffirm once more America’s unshakable commitment to Israel’s security”.

We live in a very unsettled region, and it is a mistake to believe that, were it to be possible to resolve the Israel/Palestinian conflict, it would bring peace to the Middle East. It is much more complicated than that. Lebanon is falling apart as a result of internal division and sectarian strife. King Abdullah II of Jordan only holds on to power by a balancing act between placating his Palestinian population (70% of Jordanians are Palestinians), retaining a strong internal security apparatus and maintaining good ties with the West. Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. Iran is publicly committed to wiping Israel off the face of the earth. Egypt only remains relatively stable, because it has a military government that overthrew the Muslim Brotherhood, who rose to power following a general election. Turkey is flexing its muscles while Syria has been infiltrated by Iranian and Russian forces. We live in the middle of all of that!

When you propose cutting back military aid to Israel, you threaten weakening the only democracy and faithful ally that America has in the Middle East. Without American support, our country wouldn’t exist. At the same time, Israeli military technology, battlefield experience and intelligence protect American lives, and the military hardware that America supplies to Israel benefits the American companies and workforce that manufacture them.

I understand and sympathize with your frustration, which I share, at the lack of progress towards a resolution of the Israel/Palestinian conflict, and the concern that the expansion of settlements is detrimental to that end. On the other hand, damaging Israel’s ability to defend itself by cutting back on military aid will only place us and our families in greater danger, and put at risk the very survival of our country, which rose out of the ashes of the Holocaust and has given seven million Jews a home.

There must be a way of putting pressure on right-wing Israeli governments other than by harming our ability to defend ourselves. As a politician, you are in a better position than I to know how that might be done.

I write all of this as someone, who is deeply concerned about the injustice of controlling the lives of the Palestinians, the suffering they are caused as a result and the detrimental effects of the occupation upon Israeli society. I admire the amazing achievements of our small country in such a short space of time, but at the same time feel saddened that the peace for which we all hope and pray is still so far from realization.

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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