Resolution Adopted by the CCAR

WHERE WE STAND ON ISRAEL

Adopted by the Board of Trustees
Central Conference of American Rabbis
December 11, 2002

Background

Ever since the establishment of the State of Israel and even before, the Jewish People have stretched out their hands in friendship to their Arab neighbors in the hope of achieving a relationship of peaceful co-existence. That wish is clearly expressed in Israel's Declaration of Independence which remains a source of inspiration to her to this day:

"We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East."

Most of Israel's leaders across the political spectrum have repeatedly demonstrated their commitment to this notion and preparedness to relinquish territory for the sake of peace. The agreements signed with Egypt in September 1978 by Menachem Begin and with Jordan by Yitzhak Rabin in October 1994 as well as the proposals presented to the Palestinians by Ehud Barak at Camp David in July 2000 testify to that. It is our hope and prayer that that same spirit of compromise will also in time bring the Palestinians back to the peace table.

Israel's Right to Exist

In addressing the current conflict, we affirm Israel's right as a Jewish State to live in peace and security within recognized international borders. There is no other nation on earth whose right to exist continues to be laid open to question after over fifty years of statehood arrived at through international recognition. The lessons of history have shown only too clearly that the Jewish People has the right, the need, and the justification to return to its ancient land after nearly 2,000 years of statelessness and powerlessness and to be allowed to live in peace.

Mutual Recognition

Peaceful coexistence between Israel, the Palestinians, and the Arab states based on justice and mutual recognition is a moral necessity. It is clear that there will be no final resolution to the Middle East conflict until each side recognizes the fundamental justice and inalienable moral claims of the other for independence and freedom. Israel has amply demonstrated that she accepts the justice of the Palestinian claim. Now it is incumbent upon the Palestinians to recognize the justice of Zionism as an expression of the inalienable right of the Jewish People to live in peace in their own land.

A solution to the Palestinian right to political self- determination cannot be achieved at the expense of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish democratic State with a Jewish majority. While it is our hope that a Palestinian State will be established through a process of negotiation - but only a state which would be committed to peaceful co-existence with the State of Israel - we reject the Palestinian demand for a right of physical return to the State of Israel. Such a "return" would, in effect, mean that they not only be permitted to establish a sovereign state of their own on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip but also be allowed to become a demographic majority within Israel proper, thereby, in effect, creating two Palestinian states.

It is our hope and prayer that moderation and realism will ultimately prevail in the Middle East and that a Palestinian leadership will emerge that has the courage and the foresight to work honestly and vigorously to suppress hatred in the schools, intolerance on the streets, religious fanaticism in the mosques and the terror that results from them. Such steps on their part will encourage the dialogue required to bring peace to the region. Additionally, we call upon the North American rabbinate actively to engage in dialogue with Muslim religious leadership. The Muslim community should not remain silent in the face of such blatant abuse of religion as noted above. We call upon Muslims in North America actively to denounce hate speech in the guise of Islamic religious teaching.

At the same time, we call upon all segments of Israeli society and of the Jewish people as a whole likewise to teach the messages of peaceful co-existence, tolerance, democracy, deliberation, and the acceptance of the rule of law.

The Peace Process

The peace process that resulted in the Oslo Accords and led to the historic meeting between President Clinton, Yitzhak Rabin, and Yassir Arafat on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, gave the world reason to believe that it would be possible for Israel and the Palestinians to come to an accommodation that would bring an end to the conflict.

However, the Palestinians rejected the proposals put forward by former Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak at Camp David and demonstrated a lack of willingness to offer any counter-proposals. The subsequent unwarranted and immoral Palestinian resort to violence and terror that has plagued Israel ever since has shown that Yassir Arafat is clearly unable or unprepared to take the necessary steps to reach an agreement with Israel. Nevertheless, there are signs that there is a younger generation of Palestinian leaders that is willing and able to engage the Israelis in constructive discussions once Arafat has left the scene. This gives cause for hope for the future.

Israel's Right to Self-Defense

We are united in the belief that military force will not resolve the Middle East conflict. Nevertheless, Israel has the right and moral obligation first and foremost to protect the safety and security of her people. No nation can be expected to sit back and allow its citizens to be slaughtered. We support the Government of Israel in its war against terrorism and its efforts to stop the people who execute, support and encourage it. At the same time, we call on the government and the Israel Defense Forces to be fully guided by the concept of tohar haneshek (purity of arms), employing reasonable restraint and, while doing what is necessary to protect human life, refraining from acts of collective punishment. In the final analysis, we recognize that the war against terrorism can only be a defensive measure at best until such time as political negotiations can resolve the conflict.

We acknowledge and are deeply pained by the immense suffering caused to Israelis as a result of the Palestinian choice to resort to terrorism. We condemn without reservation the actions of those who have brought terror to Israel's towns and streets in the name of their political and religious agenda.

We are acutely aware that Israeli society has suffered emotionally, politically, and economically as a result of the Palestinian war against the Jewish State. We are also painfully conscious of the poverty and hunger which exist today within Israel's poorer Jewish and Arab populations. We, therefore, pledge ourselves to do all in our power to assist her in every way at this difficult time.

In affirming that the first obligation of any sovereign state is to defend its citizens, we reject the simplistic moral equation that has been constructed by certain observers of the Middle East conflict that would seek to draw a parallel between the murderous actions of Palestinian homicide bombers and the generally measured responses of Israel's defense forces. Whereas the proclaimed intention of the terrorists is to murder and maim innocent men, women and children, Israel has not purposefully targeted civilians and has frequently, as in Jenin, gone out of her way to avoid casualties at great risk and also cost to her own military personnel.

Affirming Human Rights and Justice for Palestinians

We affirm Judaism's deep religious commitment to defend the human and civil rights of all created in God's image. Israel's Declaration of Independence also emphasizes Israel's commitment to the prophetic teaching of liberty, justice and peace. The realization of these principles is a pre-requisite for harmonic co-existence. This is of particular importance at this time when Israeli Arabs' and Palestinian rights are so adversely affected by the current violent conflict. We are deeply pained by the growing poverty and hunger within the Palestinian community. The current dire situation of Palestinians is largely a bi-product of Palestinian terror but the long-lasting occupation has contributed to the Palestinians' plight. We call on Palestinian as well as Israeli leadership to address this immediately.

A Political Solution

We urge the government of Israel to continue to work towards a political solution to the Middle East conflict and formulate those policies that will form the basis for dialogue in the future. Ultimately, the Palestinian issue can only be resolved through negotiations resulting from a shared yearning for a secure and peaceful future and the vision of a world in which "nation shall not lift up sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4).

The Broader Context of the Israel/Palestinian Conflict

The Palestinians have repeatedly failed to take advantage of the historic opportunities granted them to reach independence. However, we recognize that the Israel/Palestinian conflict takes place in a global context that also includes the relationship between the Arab world and democracy, the growth of Islamic fundamentalism and the position of Israel as an outpost of democratic values in a region of the world in which dictatorships, monarchies and theocracies are the political norm.

We are also conscious of the fact that the plight of the Palestinians has repeatedly been exploited by various Arab states and potentates for their own political ends. Frequently, oil rich nations, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, have been prepared to finance terror against Israelis while doing little to better the lot of those they term their brothers.

In this context and by contrast, we note that both Arab nations and the world community have chosen to ignore the fact that Israel has always opened her doors to refugees and has served as a haven for some 600,000 Jews that were expelled or fled from Arab lands following the establishment of the Jewish State. Their children and grandchildren, now numbered in millions, are full citizens of the country.

We call upon the Palestinian diaspora in North America to take an active part in the amelioration of the dire economic and social conditions of Palestinians. We urge joint endeavors between Jewish and Palestinian individuals and foundations in this critical work.

Territorial Considerations

In addressing the territorial issue, we believe that a return to the Green Line of pre-1967 days is unrealistic. Any final settlement between Israel and the Palestinians will need to take into account current circumstances and may require territorial adjustments akin to those offered at Camp David.

In the context of a peace agreement, it should be acknowledged that the 1949 cease-fire lines were not secure borders. We believe that Israel has the right to recognized and secure borders and, therefore, some settlements will continue to exist within the re-drawn map of the State of Israel. Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip came about as a result of a war not of her making.

Nevertheless, thirty-five years later, we acknowledge that Israel's presence there and the establishment of certain settlements by governments of all political complexions have served to deepen the sense of enmity and distrust felt by the Palestinian population and thus are an impediment to peace. We reiterate our call to the government of Israel to adopt a policy of neither building nor expanding settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. Yet, over 200,000 Israelis live in settlements on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip and deserve our support on a humanitarian basis. The aim of this support should be to guarantee the health and security of those who live in the settlements and should not be for expansion or infrastructure.

We recognize that acceding to the Palestinian right to self- determination will inevitably involve the evacuation from their homes of many settlers currently living in areas of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Jews willing to live peacefully under Palestinian rule should be able to do so, just as Arab citizens of Israel live peacefully within Israel.

Seeking Peace

We commend the untiring efforts of successive administrations of the United States government that have sought to act as mediators in bringing the Middle East conflict to an end. We again call upon the Bush Administration vigorously to engage both Israel and the Palestinians in imaginative, bold and sustained efforts to help bring to an end the current violence and to work towards a just and lasting peace. At the same time, we defend the right of Israel's citizens, who live within a democracy, to be the ultimate determiners of what is in the best interests of their security.

We commend all those who seek to build bridges between Israelis and Palestinians and who work towards the achievement of a just solution to the Middle East conflict.

We Once Again Affirm

In addition to the above, we reaffirm the positions expressed in the "Resolution on Peace in Israel," adopted by the Board of Trustees, June, 2001:

We call upon our Christian brothers and sisters throughout the world to bear witness to that part of their own early history which affirms the historic connection of the Jewish People to the Land of Israel, the ancient temple and the city of Jerusalem.

We call for the immediate release of all Israeli MIA's, including: Ron Arad, Adi Avitan, Benyamin Avraham, Omar Sawaid, and Israeli civilian Elhanan Tenenboim.

We call upon the government and Jewish citizens of Israel to all in their power to ameliorate the social, economic, and educational situation of Israel's Arab citizens.

"Bakesh shalom v'rodfehu - Seek peace and pursue it." (Psalm 34:15)