American Jews have been dragged over the past few days into the controversy between their government and Israel's government, and that is neither to their benefit nor to the benefit of the State of Israel. On Sunday, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee convention and candidly laid out his ideas for a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
Unlike the many American politicians who turn Jewish organizational conferences into election rallies, Obama did not make do with rousing declarations about America's commitment to Israel's security and to the unity of Jerusalem. Though he is already thinking about his upcoming presidential election campaign, Obama looked the Jewish community in the eye and told the truth.
On the eve of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's address to that same convention, Obama presented the June 4, 1967 borders, with mutually agreed adjustments, as a key to the two-state solution. The president also adopted the position of his predecessor, George W. Bush, that Jewish population centers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem must be taken into account.
Obama stressed that only a peace agreement with the Palestinians based on the 1967 lines can ensure that Israel will continue to be a Jewish and democratic state and prevent unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state by the UN General Assembly. Yesterday, the European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, backed Obama, as did the other members of the Quartet.
The refusal by Netanyahu and his political allies to recognize the 1967 borders as a starting point leads permanent-status negotiations into a dead end. From there, the road is short to violent confrontation with the Palestinians, diplomatic isolation and perhaps even economic sanctions.
The large Jewish peace camp in the United States must support the president and reject political activists who have turned Israel's fate into a ball on America's domestic political court. The time has come for the Jews of New York and Illinois to stand beside their worried brethren in Jerusalem and Sderot who have welcomed Obama's message and are hoping for it to become reality. Between loyalty to Obama's way and loyalty to Netanyahu's way, they must choose loyalty to the future of the State of Israel.
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