Coalition Against Annexation Meets Israeli Diplomats in 18 Cities Worldwide

'It’s important for us to show that this isn’t a concern just among the ‘usual suspects’ of the left,' said one of the group's key figures

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press on September 10, 2019.
Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to the press on September 10, 2019.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON – An international coalition of progressive Jewish organizations has reached out in recent weeks to Israeli diplomats in 18 consulates and embassies around the world, in order to present a message of opposition to unilateral Israeli annexation of settlements in the West Bank. Representatives of the group have met with diplomats in large American cities and in European capitals, and are planning more such meetings in the coming days.

The coalition, JLINK, which includes 50 Jewish organizations in 17 countries, was formed earlier this year. According to Kenneth Bob, president of the liberal North American Zionist organization Ameinu, “this action against annexation has been our first test. We realized a few months ago that this is how things were going to unfold, and that we need to prepare to take action on this issue.”

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Bob explained to Haaretz that in each major city where there are representatives of organizations that took part in the anti-annexation effort, “we had local leaders in the Jewish community reach out to their contacts in the diplomatic missions and ask for meetings to present their case.”

However, the Israeli ambassadors do not always agree to meet the representatives. “Three ambassadors who are political appointees of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and are considered Bibi loyalists, didn’t have time to meet,” Bob told Haaretz. This group included Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.

Bob noted that one political appointee with right-wing, pro-annexation views who did agree to meet with the group and hear their concerns is Dani Dayan, Israel’s consul general in New York.

“We had a very respectful discussion with him, despite the obvious disagreements between us,” Bob said. “He listened to our warnings and he presented the government’s line. It was a good conversation.”

Meetings like this have also taken place at the Israeli consulates in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco, as well as at the Israeli embassies in Berlin, Paris, Madrid and Copenhagen.

“In each meeting we have between three to ten representatives of local Jewish groups attend, because it’s important for us to show that this isn’t a concern just among the ‘usual suspects’ of the left. We’ve had people with senior positions within the organized Jewish community join these meetings, because they are also very concerned about annexation,” Bob said.

The coalition has put together an outline of arguments and talking points on the risks of annexation. “We talk about how it would impact Israel’s security, its ties with neighboring countries, and its international standing, as well as human rights and democracy,” Bob said. “We’ve also tried to ask questions and get some information on what is planned, but most of the time, the diplomats admit that they’re completely in the dark and have no clue what’s going to happen.”

Bob said that he is particularly worried about how annexation will affect younger Jews in America and other diaspora communities. “We brought representatives of Habonim Dror, a Zionist youth movement, to some of the meetings, and we’ve also had people who work in Jewish education,” he added. “This could really cause damage to how Israel is viewed among younger people in general, including younger Jews.”

The Trump administration is expected to give Israel a “green light” to go ahead with annexation, but the scope and timeline hasn’t yet been determined. Senior Israeli and American officials are currently in negotiations regarding the annexation process.

If annexation is carried out according to the Trump administration’s Middle East peace plan, this would allow for unilateral Israeli annexation of some 30 percent of the West Bank, including even the most remote and isolated setlements. settlements. Annexation is a unilateral step – the kind these organizations consistently denounced – and if carried out in the maximalist version, would leave no chance for a Palestinian state to be established.

Earlier this year, ahead of Israel’s March 2 election, Netanyahu and American Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said that Israel would immediately annex all settlements in the West Bank. That move, however, was blocked by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who led the administration’s work on the Middle East plan.

Current discussions between the two countries involve not only Netanyahu, Kushner and Friedman, but also Defense Minister and Alternate Prime Minister Benny Gantz, who opposes annexation on the scale proposed by Netanyahu and Friedman. Gantz has stated that he will only support annexation if it is done in coordination with Israel’s neighbors and with its European allies.

Gantz and his main political partner, Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, could end up supporting a more limited annexation move, which would include several settlements in the vicinity of Jerusalem. But it’s not clear if such a move will be sufficient for Netanyahu, who has created very high expectations among the religious right-wing in Israel regarding annexation.

The Trump administration would prefer to green light annexation with a broad internal Israeli consensus involving both Gantz and Netanyahu. However, administration officials have said in private conversations that Gantz doesn’t have a veto on the subject, and that his opposition will not be a deciding factor.

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