By RON KAMPEAS/JTA
Groups which are usually loathe to publicly criticize the Israeli gov’t have changed their tune in wake of appeal by John Kerry.
WASHINGTON (JTA) — It’s almost boilerplate: The American Jewish community asks a foreign leader with whom it has cultivated a close relationship to kindly tell firebrands in the leader’s government to pipe down and fall in with an established policy that happens to be embraced by the U.S. government.
Greece? Romania? Hungary? Russia?
In a rare rebuke of a sitting Israeli minister, three major centrist Jewish groups in recent weeks have criticized Naftali Bennett, the economics chief in Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government, for saying that the two-state solution is a “dead end.” Bennett also called on the government to annex the West Bank.
“Minister Naftali’s remarks, rejecting outright the vision of two states for two peoples, are stunningly shortsighted,” David Harris, the American Jewish Committee’s executive director, said in a June 17 statement. “Since he is a member of the current Israeli coalition government, it is important that his view be repudiated by the country’s top leaders.”
Also repudiating Bennett, who heads the right-of-center Jewish Home party, were the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the umbrella body for public policy groups, although the JCPA statement did not name him personally.
Typically loath to publicly criticize the Israeli government, centrist groups in recent years have been the targets of liberal critics who charge that they are, at best, lukewarm supporters of Israeli-Palestinian peace. But coming in the wake of an appeal to Jewish groups by US Secretary of State John Kerry to press “leaders” to back the peace process, the latest statements suggest otherwise.
Each of the groups that repudiated Bennett framed their statements in the context of Kerry’s bid to restart the peace process and come as Israeli settler leaders opposed to a two-state solution are making their case in Washington.
The initial reaction to Kerry’s appeal was hesitant, but in recent weeks a number of mainstream groups have warmly embraced it. Participants in a closed-door meeting June 26 of Jewish leaders and Democratic US senators said that Michael Kassen, the president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “heartily” embraced Kerry’s initiative, albeit with a caveat: The main obstacle to peace, he reportedly said, is Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
A similar point was made by ADL National Director Abraham Foxman in a recent Op-Ed calling on Netanyahu to rein in Bennett and Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, who also has declared the two-state option dead.
“It would be good for Mr. Netanyahu to find as many occasions as possible to reinstate his commitment to a two-state solution, and make clear once again that it is he that wants to move forward through negotiations, while it is Mahmoud Abbas who is injecting rejections and is the true obstacle to peace,” Foxman wrote.