American Jewish Leaders: Netanyahu Should Disown 'Irresponsible' Statements Against Two-state Solution

In rare public protest, leaders of major Jewish groups condemn 'shortsighted' comments that 'undermine the credibility of the government.'

American Jewish leaders Abraham Foxman, Rabbi Rick Jacobs and David Harris condemned recent statements by senior Israeli officials about the impossibility of a two-state solution, calling them irresponsible and saying they undermine the credibility of the government.

Earlier this week, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett told a settlers group that the idea of a Palestinian state had reached a "dead end." His remarks came days after Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon told Israel Radio that the government will not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon called the Arab Peace Initiative "spin" during a speech in Washington.

"I think these are all irresponsible statements which do not in any way reflect the commitment of the Israeli government, not to mention the long-standing position of the U.S., that the two-state solution is the only possible solution," said Rabbi Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism.

Jacobs, who is in Jerusalem this week to attend the President's Conference, added: "I think President Clinton said it best last night [at the 90th birthday celebration for President Shimon Peres] when he said a two-state solution is not the fantasy; a one state solution is. This is a black and white issue and Bennett and the others are irresponsible to speak otherwise."

Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, told Haaretz that the statements "undermine the seriousness of the Israeli government" and compared them to the popular children's game "whack-a-mole," in which the furry animals pop up and need to be hammered down time after time.

"This can happen once in a while, but I feel it is happening way too often," Foxman said. "Members of the coalition continue to stray from the basic tenants of the government. [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has made it clear that, even if we don't know the details, there are contacts going on with the view towards reaching a two-state solution."

Nevertheless, Foxman called on Netanyahu to repudiate the comments so as to counteract false perceptions of Israel.

"Netanyhau has to do this every time these politicians step out of line and undermine the credibility of the government," Foxman said. "The irony is that these kinds of statements put an added onus on Israel. For, if to go by Bennett or Dannon, it is Israel that is saying no to the two-state solution, that becomes the imagery. When in fact it is not Israel that is not serious, it is the other side."

(Netanyahu told Reuters this week that he is responsible for setting foreign policy and that he supports Palestinian independence. "I will seek a negotiated settlement where you'd have a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state," he said.)

David Harris, the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, called Bennett's remarks "stunningly shortsighted" in a statement on the organization's website.

"Bennett contravenes the outlook of Prime Minister Netanyahu and contradicts the vision presented earlier this month to the AJC Global Forum by Minister Tzipi Livni, chief Israeli negotiator with the Palestinians," Harris said.

"Livni stated clearly that a negotiated two-state settlement is the only way to assure that the State of Israel will remain both Jewish and democratic. That is a view we at AJC have long supported."

Olivier Fitoussi