U.S. Jewish Groups Slam Netanyahu’s Vow to Annex Jordan Valley: 'Israelis Won't Live in Democracy'

AIPAC and others stay silent, focusing on the departure of hawkish U.S. national security chief John Bolton

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton visiting an army outpost overlooking the Jordan Valley, June 23, 2019.
Abir Sultan,AP

A raft of American Jewish organizations have berated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for declaring he would immediately annex the Jordan Valley and other parts of the West Bank if reelected, saying the move would threaten Israeli democracy and destroy the possibility of a two-state solution.

But other U.S. Jewish organizations – including AIPAC – remained silent on the issue, focusing instead on praise for the outgoing U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton.

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Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, said Netanyahu’s announcement left him “very concerned.”

“These are unilateral moves endangering Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and further limiting the possibility of a two-state solution,” Jacobs said in a statement. “Such serious pronouncements don’t belong in the final week of a heated campaign.”

Netanyahu made his announcement in the run-up to Tuesday's general election, as he desperately tries to win enough votes for his Likud party and the wider right wing in an attempt to form another governing coalition. 

The CEO of the New Israel Fund, Daniel Sokatch, warned that “if Netanyahu forces Israel to unilaterally and illegally annex Palestinian territories, abandon the 1967 borders, and blow up decades of stated Israeli, American, and internationally agreed-upon policy,” this would mark the end of Israel’s claim to be a democratic Jewish state.

“After annexation, Israelis will no longer live in a democracy. Palestinian people in the West Bank will live with no representation, and no hope for self-determination, in a string of embattled Bantustans,” Sokatch added in a statement. “The time has come for all who care about the people of Israel and Palestine to choose wisely. Israelis, and those who support Israeli democracy around the world, must stand firmly against annexation.”

The Progressive Israel Network – in the name of 11 partner organizations including J Street and the National Council of Jewish Women – said Netanyahu’s move, if implemented, “harms millions of Palestinians living under occupation and poses an existential threat to Israeli democracy.”

The Israel Policy Forum called the move “irresponsible and reckless,” saying it would destroy “any possibility of future security cooperation with the Palestinians and puts security cooperation with the Jordanians at risk.”

Calling Tuesday's announcement “political electioneering” at the expense of Israel’s interests, the group urged Netanyahu and his government to shun “any type of annexation or unilaterally applying sovereignty to Jewish communities in the West Bank.”

“We further call on the Trump administration not to lend its support to this disastrous policy,” the Israel Policy Forum said. “It marks the beginning of the fundamental destruction of the two-state vision.”

AIPAC, which officially endorses a two-state solution, remained silent on the annexation declaration but weighed in on the story that rocked Washington Tuesday, the ouster of Bolton. On Twitter, AIPAC thanked the national security adviser for “many years of service to the United States and for your steadfast support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.”

Progressive Jews criticized the group’s selective reaction to Tuesday’s events.

Author and pundit Peter Beinart needled AIPAC by tweeting its Bolton statement and asking, “any thoughts on the other big story of the day?”

Then, after an AIPAC tweet quoting Israel’s UN ambassador on the threats posed by Iran and Hezbollah on Israel’s northern border, Beinart added, “If you can’t bring yourself to say you oppose annexing the West Bank, maybe you shouldn’t tweet tonight at all.”

Other major groups that did not comment on the annexation announcement but had warm words for Bolton included the American Jewish Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.