Alan Solow is a former Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and current member of the Executive Committee of Israel Policy Forum. In a recent blog post, he urged American Jews to speak out against the unilateral extension of Israeli law to any part of the territory west of the Jordan River that had fallen in Israel’s hands as a result of the defensive Six Day War – both for the sake of “intellectual consistency” and Israel’s security.
To his credit, unlike Daniel Pipes earlier this month, he chose to offer his advice in the pages of the Times of Israel, not the New York Times. He called the territory in question “disputed” rather than occupied, which implied that in his opinion both Israel and the Palestinians may have legitimate claims to it. Nevertheless, while certainly knowing that one cannot annex or grab what one may legitimately claim as one’s own land, he used such intellectually inconsistent terms as land grab twice and annexation/annex four times. He could, for instance, have opted for the more neutral term unilateral partition of the land.
Although he correctly pointed out the longstanding “American Jewish consensus” that “resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict … must be reached [only] through bilateral negotiations between the parties,” he failed to recognize that a growing number of Jewish organizations have broken with that consensus and have been publicly pressuring American politicians, with considerable success on the Democratic side, to impose their version of a fair solution – in total disregard of the position of the democratically-elected government of Israel and of a wide majority of its Jewish voters.
And while it is true that “American Jewish leadership … [has] oppose[d] unilateral attempts by the Palestinian Authority to declare a state,” it has not succeeded in preventing the Palestinians from doing just that and securing membership in various international organizations – in violation of their contractual obligations and without a significant reduction in the aid provided by prior administrations.
His concern that, “hav[ing] disregarded the insistence on mutual consent,” American Jewish leadership would then lack the “intellectual consistency” to oppose the “annexation of Israeli territory” if the Palestinians were to “gain the upper hand,” is rather disingenuous. If that were to happen, Israeli Jews would be, in the Palestinians’ own words, “thrown in the sea” or “sent to where they came from.” In nowadays parlance, the Jews would be ethnically cleansed and Israel would cease to exist.
He emphasized that “Israel’s control over major settlement blocs in the West Bank … is, as a practical matter, uncontested,” but conspicuously avoided mentioning that control of the sparsely populated Jordan Valley is strategically crucial yet vigorously contested. The extension of Israeli sovereignty to that area was advocated by several left-of-center prime ministers, long before Benjamin Netanyahu. Even Yitzhak Rabin, barely one month before his tragic assassination, declared in the Knesset plenum: “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley in the broadest sense of that term.”
The suggestion, under the pretense of “protect[ing] Israel’s long-term interests,” that “American Jews have an obligation to speak out against [Israelis] imposing” what they view as a defensible eastern border, is morally troubling. Such a momentous decision should be left to those who would have to risk their lives and limbs defending their families and homes, not to those living thousands of miles away in Chicago (as he does) or New York (as I do).