WASHINGTON — Jewish organizations in the U.S. welcomed Monday the agreement between Benny Gantz and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form a government, but warned against annexing parts of the West Bank the deal could lead to.
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The Union for Reform Judaism, the largest Jewish organization in North America, said in a statement: “We are heartened that Israel has a new government. We wish Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and MK Benny Gantz success in dealing with the coronavirus crisis and offer our partnership toward a better future for all.”
However, the organization’s president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, added that “We call on this new government to refrain from unilateral actions that could potentially hinder or thwart the renewal of the peace process in the short and long term, especially unilateral annexation.”
Israel Policy Forum, which promotes a two-state soliton to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, released a statement saying that while it “welcomes the conclusion of a period of political stagnation with the formation of a new Israeli government,” adding that the government should not only address the challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis, but “should also take care not to add to Israel’s burden by creating new self-inflicted challenges that will have far-reaching ramifications.”
The organization noted that “We hope that the new Israeli government closely examines the potential consequences of unilateral annexation and the deleterious impact it will have on Israeli security and diplomacy and that it heeds the warnings against unilateral annexation that have come from Israeli security experts, the United States Congress, the European Union, foreign policy experts, and American Jewish leaders.”
J Street said in a statement that it was “deeply alarmed” by the language on annexation in the Netanyahu-Gantz agreement, and cautioned that it “would severely imperil Israel’s future as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people, along with the future of the U.S.-Israel relationship.” It urged “responsible American leaders” to express their stark opposition to annexing parts of the West Bank.
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Americans for Peace Now also warned that “The meaning of this agreement is that the Netanyahu-Gantz government, allegedly established to join forces to fight the coronavirus, will be the first in Israel's history to adopt the extremist policy principle of West Bank annexation.”
AIPAC, the leading lobby group supporting Israel in Washington refrained from mentioning the matter of West Bank annexation in its official statement congratulating Netanyahu and Gantz for the formation of the new government. “AIPAC welcomes the announcement of the agreement to form a new Israeli government. We congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu and Lt. Gen. Gantz for their significant achievement in forging a broad-based coalition government,” the organization said.
AIPAC added that “Israel has once again demonstrated the resiliency and vibrancy of the only genuine democracy in the region. We look forward to further strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Israel as these two allies confront the challenges in the region and advance our mutual security, health and economic interests.”
Former top White House adviser and Middle East peace negotiator Dennis Ross wrote that “Israel’s new government allows PM Netanyahu to raise unilateral annexation on July 1. He needs Trump’s agreement to implement it. That’s the only condition; it will take a Palestinian counteroffer or key Arab leaders weighing in to stop it.” Ross added that “one state for two peoples is more likely.”