Nearly 140 US Jewish leaders urge Gantz, Ashkenazi to block annexation

As Blue and White leader reportedly acquiesces to annexing West Bank to form unity government, American Jewish signatories warn move would dramatically weaken pro-Israel advocacy

By Eric Cortellessa, TOI  6 April 2020, 10:41 pm

Benny Gantz (L) and Gabi Ashkenazi at a Blue and White campaign event in Kfar Saba on February 12, 2020. (Gili Yaari/ Flash90)
Benny Gantz (L) and Gabi Ashkenazi at a Blue and White campaign event in Kfar Saba on February 12, 2020. (Gili Yaari/ Flash90)

WASHINGTON — Nearly 140 US Jewish leaders unveiled an open letter Monday to Blue and White party leader Benny Gantz and his deputy, MK Gabi Ashkenazi, urging them to “remain steadfast” in their opposition to West Bank annexation under a unity government.

The missive warns against allowing the coronavirus pandemic to enable Israel to annex West Bank settlements, at a time when the country needs to unify in the face of a public health emergency.

“In the midst of this unprecedented health and financial crisis for Israel, we respectfully urge you not to use the need for unity in the face of emergency to create a different crisis for Israel by moving forward on unilateral annexation,” the American Jewish leaders write.

The letter was orchestrated by the Israel Policy Forum, a New York-based nonprofit that advocates for a two-state solution.

It was signed by a number of prominent Jewish philanthropists, such as Charles Bronfman and Donald Sussman, and religious leaders, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who heads the Union for Reform Judiasm, and David Saperstein, former head of the Religious Action Center and US ambassador for International Religious Freedom in the Obama administration.

Congressman Steve Israel (Katrina Hajagos)

Other signatories include former Florida Congressman Steve Israel and current head of the National Council of Jewish Women Sheila Katz, among others.

Describing themselves as “proudly Zionist, unquestionably pro-Israel,” the Jewish leaders said that Jerusalem unilaterally annexing the West Bank would estrange American Jews.

“Should annexation be advanced, the majority of American Jews who oppose such a policy will feel more alienated from Israel as a result,” the letter said. “Just as we expect that our own government focus on the crisis at hand without using the fear and uncertainty felt by Americans to push through harmful and unrelated policies, we ask that the leaders of the Jewish state to which we are all so committed do the same.”

The public plea comes as Gantz has reportedly indicated in negotiations that he is willing to compromise on West Bank annexation to form a unity government with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, which has demanded support for the move.

Netanyahu views West Bank annexation as a legacy-making move and has been adamant about seeing the election promise through before he would have over the prime ministership to Gantz in fall 2021, under a tentative deal.

Gantz, on the other hand, has long opposed unilateral annexation but recognizes that the right-wing bloc currently has a majority that is pushing strenuously for it.

A composite image of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) and Benny Gantz at polling stations in Jerusalem and Rosh Haayin, respectively, during the Knesset Elections on March 2, 2020. (Marc Israel Sellem/POOL, AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)

Reports Monday indicated that the agreement taking shape provided for Israel to annex up to 30 percent of the West Bank — all the settlements, and the Jordan Valley — by early summer.

On the matter of annexation, the sides decided that the government will act with the full agreement of the US and in talks with the international community, while preserving strategic interests and peace deals, according to Hebrew media reports.

Under the reported deal, Netanyahu will consult with Gantz on the matter, but apparently will not require his agreement. A vote on annexation would be held within months and not delayed until the coronavirus outbreak has passed. Blue and White will not have a veto to block the vote, but will have a free hand in deciding how to vote.

But even without the backing of Blue and White, there would likely be sufficient support among right-wing MKs in the opposition’s Yisrael Beytenu to approve annexation.

The American Jewish leaders said that pushing forward with annexation now would be “particularly damaging” — not only because it would hurt the chances of an eventual peace deal with the Palestinians, but also because it would seem like Jerusalem was taking advantage of a global pandemic.

In turn, they warn, that would weaken pro-Israel advocacy in the United States: “It will be viewed as political opportunism by proponents of annexation during the worst possible moment and will make it more challenging for American Jewish leaders as they seek to maintain strong support for Israel and pro-Israel policies at this time.”

April 7, 2020 | 59 Comments » | 875 views

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9 Comments / 59 Comments

  1. Regarding the treaty we were discussing, it seems to me that it lapsed shortly after, may (or may not) have been renewed many years later for a short, inactive period and then forgotten about…..After all, between minus 161 and 66 CE is 225 years-

    Even marriages don’t last that long……these days…..!!

  2. @ Michael S:
    I agree. But, at a minimum, they have an alternate headquarters in Switzerland. Let them be confined to that if the Swiss will continue to have them. We should keep our veto but defund and deport them.

  3. @ Edgar G.:
    China justified its repeated invasions of Tibet, culminating in the occupation that began in 1959 and continues to the present day by citing a 7th century custom of Tibetan rulers presenting Beijing with gifts to avoid being invaded as proof that it was simply a renegade feudal province of China. I believe that reference is in one of Anna Louise Strong’s books*. I wonder if there is any extant reference to Rome using such specious legalities to justify occupying Judah or did they just invade because they could and not bother justifying it.


  4. @ Sebastien Zorn:
    I agree. The Chinese CP has co-opted an organization started by the US; we should not let them take it over if we don’t have to. Let them start from scratch with their “One Belt, One Road” imperialist venture.

    We should definitely defund them.

  5. @ Michael S:
    I think both Adam and I posted the list of the biggest financial contributors to WHO (from the WHO website).
    China is nowhere on this list.
    Since “money talks”, there is no way the WHO could be co opted by China.
    As far as the UN is concerned – maybe the US should stop financing them and have them move to Geneva because it is really unfair to demand of this organization only the US-compliant votes just because the US houses and finances the UN.

  6. @ Reader:

    I said, “The Chinese CP has co-opted an organization started by the US”.

    To verify that statement, you would have to dig up the votes in the UNGA and UNSC, to see whether the majority have been pro-China or pro-US. This is not an easy task; but you’re welcome to it if you want to refute me. Then, if you wish, you may sue me.

  7. @ Michael S:
    I take it as a “Yes”.
    I will not waste my time going through the votes, I assume that if you made the statement that China has co-opted the UN, you had already verified them, you statement just sounds unbelievable for some reason.
    Does China buy every member of the UN separately or how does it work?

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