Adopted June 18, 2020 by the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis
This moment requires a strong moral voice. The URJ and CCAR have undergone a process with our respective leadership, listened to experts, worked closely with our beloved Israeli Movement, our partners at IMPJ and IRAC, and consulted with leaders across North America. As a Movement that puts Ahavat Yisrael as one of its highest values and with our deep commitment to Israel as both a Jewish and democratic state, we must strongly oppose the potential annexation after July 1, 2020. We must do so out of a concern for Israel’s safety and security, for the preservation of Israel’s democratic character, and for the place of Israel among the nations of the world.
We thank you for your support and for taking action at this critical moment. We look forward to continuing our work as a Movement in support of Israel and in championing the values we hold dear.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs Rabbi Hara Person
President, URJ Chief Executive, CCAR
As a proud Zionist movement, we hold the value of Ahavat Yisrael—love for the people, the Land, and the State of Israel—as core to who we are as Jews. Our abiding commitment to the security of Israel, to the special relationship between Israel and both the U.S. and Canada, to the Jewish and democratic character of the State of Israel, and to the importance of Jewish values in shaping our policies and priorities lead us to express our alarm at the possible unilateral annexation by Israel of areas of the West Bank.
We are prompted to speak at this time by the decision to include annexation in the Israeli government’s formal coalition agreement and the prospect that such policies could begin to be implemented as early as July 1, 2020. Whether referred to as “annexation” or, euphemistically, the “extension of Israeli sovereignty,” we believe any such act outside the context of a broader peace accord to be a fundamentally flawed idea that would cause significant damage to the State of Israel, to the special relationship between our countries, and to Israel-Diaspora Jewish relations. Israeli confidence in any viable peace process has been greatly eroded by the persistence of terrorist attacks, by Palestinian leaders’ rejection of generous Israeli offers in prior negotiations, by official Palestinian support for the families of those imprisoned or killed after carrying out terrorist attacks, and by President Abbas’s threats to suspend all prior agreements, including cessation of security coordination and cooperation with Israel and the U.S. At the same time, our Movement has long expressed overwhelming support for the “Two States for Two Peoples” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while expressing deep opposition to the occupation, to the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and to the oppressive treatment of the Palestinian population.
We recognize that some in the Jewish community in North America and in Israel are sympathetic to the prospect of annexation of some limited areas seen as indispensable to Israel’s security, particularly the areas that almost certainly will fall under Israeli sovereignty under a two-state peace agreement. Yet even so, the overwhelming majority of our congregants and leadership in North America continue to believe that Israel’s and America’s strategic interests, as well as Palestinian national aspirations, can only be served by two states living side by side in security and cooperation.
Annexation would have a deleterious impact on the Palestinian people. Annexation may place yet more Palestinians under direct Israeli control while denying them full citizenship rights. Israel’s moral standing depends on its commitment to ensuring that Palestinians do not live as second-class citizens without the full democratic rights its Jewish citizens enjoy.
Annexation is seen by Palestinians as Israeli repudiation of the two-state solution. As the diplomatic path closes, frustration and despair within the Palestinian community will lead many to abandon faith in the diplomatic approach toward securing their rights, likely enhancing the status of Hamas and other extremist groups who argue that only unilateral Palestinian steps, including the use of violence, can lead to a viable Palestinian state. At the same time, calls will increase for a “one-state solution,” which will negate the continuation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
Annexation creates significant diplomatic risks for Israel. It risks making Israel a pariah in growing segments of the international community. Annexation also risks undercutting the improved relations between Israel and some of the Arab nations in the region, as evidenced in an unprecedented op-ed by the Emirates’ ambassador to the U.S. in one of Israel’s leading newspapers.
Annexation would also provide fodder for those who advocate for Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) toward Israel. In North America, Zionist college students, as well as Israel’s most zealous supporters among members of the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament, will find themselves besieged by BDS activists, having to defend what many will view as an indefensible policy.
Annexation jeopardizes Israel’s security. Throughout nearly three decades, cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian Authority security forces has thwarted hundreds of terrorist attacks and made life in Israel safer. In recent years, cooperation has been strained by lack of progress on the peace process, deteriorating trust, and frozen funding. The result has been increased strain on Israeli security. Annexation would significantly weaken the PA, reducing or even ending security cooperation and further stressing Israeli security forces. Israel will be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, not less. As the “Commanders for Israel’s Security,” a highly respected NGO of former key military and intelligence leaders, has observed:
“Palestinian security officers and troops, along with their relatives and social circles, must have a sense that their work serves the Palestinian national interest and is not solely an act of collaboration with the occupation…It is impossible to state for certain…the point at which Israel’s unilateral steps, lead to the termination of security coordination by the PA or its collapse.”
Over time, North American political support for Israel would likely be weakened. We are already seeing shifts toward greater sympathy for the Palestinians among pro-Israel supporters, including younger evangelicals.
The bipartisan and cross-party support that Israel has enjoyed for decades in the United States and Canada would be damaged by divisions over Israel’s annexation policy. This shift could seriously jeopardize the eight-decade partnerships between the United States and Israel and Canada and Israel, which have been founded on shared democratic values and shared security interests. Annexation will give ammunition to Israel’s opponents in their efforts to restrict aid packages and Memoranda of Understanding so vital for Israeli security and well-being.
Annexation will deepen the divide between Israel and North American Jews. The overwhelming majority of North American Jewry remains committed to a peaceful two-state solution. We share that commitment and are deeply concerned by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement that unilateral annexation would not include any commitment to the establishment of a future Palestinian state or to a resumption of the peace process; even President Trump’s peace plan includes those commitments. The ties between Jews worldwide—particularly younger Jews—and the Jewish state are strained by two decades of policies that have dimmed the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, expanded settlements, and rejected the full rights of the non-Orthodox streams in Israel. Because the deep, abiding passion of Zionism is rooted in the dream of Israel as embodied in the democratic values of the Declaration of Independence, the more Israel undercuts those values, the more damage it does to Klal Yisrael and to the urgent need of repairing relations between Israel and world Jewry.
As U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, one of Israel’s most effective supporters on Capitol Hill, has said, “A directly negotiated two-state solution is a mainstream position and expressing concern about unilateral annexation isn’t extreme at all. It’s the position of most of the largest cross-section of the American Jewish community.” This is certainly true of our Movement.
THEREFORE, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis resolve to:
- Oppose any unilateral annexation by Israel’s government of parts of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria/Area C and acknowledge that refraining from such action reflects Israel’s commitment to its future as a Jewish and democratic state;
- Affirm that unilateral annexation is fundamentally and deliberately inconsistent with the serious pursuit of lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace;
- Assert that the permanent status of occupied territory and the settlements should be determined only as a result of bilateral or multilateral negotiations involving both Israelis and Palestinians;
- Urge our rabbis, cantors, and congregants to express their views to Israeli leaders at consulates and embassies, as well as to opinion-makers and friends in Israel;
- Call on influential Jewish leaders and public figures in our congregations and Jewish and non-Jewish organizations to publicly oppose any efforts toward unilateral annexation;
- Call on Israel’s supporters in the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament, past and present, to speak out against annexation and to clearly highlight its dangers for the U.S., Canada, and Israel;
- Call on the governments of the U.S., Canada, and Israel, together with their friends in the region, to take steps to strengthen the prospects for resumed diplomatic negotiations toward a two-state solution; and
- Work in cooperation with Jewish and Israeli organizations, movements, and communities that are committed to the values expressed in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, in order to achieve the goals and objectives expressed in this resolution.