Our Chanukah Party at Sacred Heart was a great success. Special thanks to Ross and Harry for making the delicious latkes and to Retha for setting everything up. And to Norm and Marvin for leading the singing. And to all who attended and made the evening so lively. What a wonderful moment of camaraderie and good will and holiday spirit. May the rest of Chanukah be happy and festive as well for all our members wherever they may be.

September 19, 2018

 

Our Kol Nidre service begins at 7:00 sharp Tuesday. Our morning service begins at 10:00 AM and our afternoon service (Yizkor and the concluding service) begins at 5:30 PM, all on Wednesday. The Break the Fast will follow.

Our one minute sermons will be given on Wednesday just before Yizkor. Each BJC member is invited to prepare a one minute talk on any relevant and/or appropriate subject he or she may wish. It can be personal, it can be poetic. It can be philosophical or theological. Share your thoughts with us. The only rule is to keep it to about one minute. It can be a liberating experience.

 

September 11, 2018

Yom Kippur begins Tuesday evening  with the Kol Nidre service (7:00PM).  The most solemn day in the Jewish calendar, it is focused on reflection, repentance and renewal. The central theme is repentance, a word that likely feels strange and uncomfortable for secular Jews living in the 21st century. But try using the word “regret” rather than “repentance.” Looking back on the year that has just ended there are probably many things that we regret. Individually, how did I treat my spouse or significant other,  my parents,  my children, my grandchildren? How did I treat my friends and the others with whom I came in contact during the past year? Do I regret any ethical lapses? Were my actions consonant with my ideals?   Collectively, did we as a Jewish community live up to the standards that have been set for us by the many generations that have come before? Do we know what these ideals are? Do we know how to find out?

 

Tradition says that while God can  and will forgive sins that were done to him/her (the danger or the power in anthropomorphizing God is apparent in choosing a feminine pronoun), sins  done to our fellow men and women can be forgiven only by personal request. Few if any of us will do that. But still, there is another way. The theme of the High Holidays is Teshuvah, turning or change. The Days of Awe assume that we have free will, that we can recognize our errors and strengths and make the changes that we desire. Personal change is the most difficult thing a man or woman can do in his or her life. But that does not mean it is not possible? So while you are with us for this solemn day, take a few moments to think about what you will do with whatever free will you possess. Do you see it possible to find Teshuva in the years that you have left? Let us all hope so.

Our Kol Nidre service begins at 7:00 (not 7:30) Tuesday. Our morning service begins at 10:00 AM and our afternoon service (Yizkor and the concluding service) begins at 5:30 PM, all on Wednesday.

 

We will have our one minute sermons on Wednesday just before Yizkor. Each BJC member is invited to prepare a one minute talk on any relevant and/or appropriate subject he or she may wish. It can be personal, it can be poetic. It can be philosophical or theological. Share your thoughts with the rest of us. The only rule is to keep it to about one minute.  If you have never done it, try it. It can be a liberating experience.

 

The Break the Fast supper begins immediately after the Concluding service, somewhere around 6:30. If you have not signed up send Ellen Rock an email (Ellenrock@aol.com). Let her know what you are bringing. We supply the lox and bagels for this dairy repast.

 

 

Rosh Hashanah begins Sunday evening.  The coming of a New Year, this year 5779 since the creation of the world according to traditional custom, is a time of refection for all Jews, regardless of their religiosity. It is a time of looking back, thinking about what has passed since last September, what have we accomplished and fulfilled, what have we failed to accomplish and fulfill, both personally and as a society. Have we lived up to our ideals individually and collectively? If we have, how did we do it? If we have not, why did we fail? These are not easy questions to pose but they are necessary ones if we are to learn from the past.  History does not repeat itself exactly but it is our best way of understanding who we are and where we are heading.

 

Rosh Hashanah is also a time for looking ahead. If we are sadder but wiser for having climbed the mountaintops and descended into the valleys into which our life’s journey wandered during the past year, what do we want to do differently in 5779? What pathways do we want to cherish and keep open. And what to avoid? We can be proud of what we have accomplished with our spouses, with our children, with our friends and we might also take a moment to understand what has not met our aspirations with any of these relationships. Many of us do not often pause for personal reflection, or for collective reflection. As a people we can look to where we are as Jewish Americans. Do we know what Jewish values are and do we follow them in our role as concerned citizens of an increasingly polarized and adversarial democracy?

 

Evening  services will begin at 7:30 PM (allowing time for a holiday meal before services) and will be highlighted by a talk by Norm. We then continue Monday morning beginning at 10:00 AM. Our morning service includes the blowing of the Shofar, the telling of the story of the Akedah, the near sacrifice of Isaac by his father Abraham, and its intriguing interpretations, many traditional melodies, and concludes with a festive Oneg when we all eat apples and honey  to bring on a sweet and joyous New Year. Our services will continue the practice of including members of the congregation in the various readings from our new prayer books. These services will not be overly long, but they can, and, I hope, will be meaningful and heartfelt to all members of the BJC what

ever their particular outlook.

 J Street    Part I   (Panels 1-5)

  

At the invitation of a friend, I attended the J Street convention in Washington from April 14th to April 17th.  J Street is a large Zionist organization that believes that the path to peace for Israel is through a two-state solution.  While strongly supporting Israel and Zionism it equally strongly opposes the policies of the current government which it believes will lead to the destruction of the Zionist ideal. At the convention there were 1200 college students, many rabbis and cantors, Jewish leaders, and interested Jews (and some non-Jews) from throughout the country.

As I believe that it is important for American Jews to hear different points of view, I will report on the sessions of the conference that I attended. I am acting as a journalist. I, of course, could only capture the very broadest picture. These discussions went on for hours and had many details and descriptions and complex arguments as well as disagreements that are impossible to recapture fully in a report. The opinions and proposals given are those of the speakers and panelists and not necessarily my own, though I am sympathetic to many of J Street’s goals.  It should be noted that the conference took place about a month before President Trump withdrew from the Iran Agreement and re-imposed sanctions. At the time the fate of the treaty was in the balance. While the decision has been made, it is too early to know the consequences of that decision. Many speakers touched on this issue which is still very much alive. Iran continues to be perhaps Israel’s most vital concern.

 

  1. Opening Session: “A Voice for Today, A Vision for Tomorrow”

 

President Jeremy Ben-Ami opened the proceedings. He declared that there was more than one way to be pro-Israel and that loving Israel does not mean that you must agree with the Israeli government; that you can at the same time be pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian, opposing the occupation of the West Bank and the demolition of houses to make way for new settlements. He noted that as we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of Israel, a miracle that became reality, we must acknowledge that the occupation is now fifty years old as well.  He was followed by Eti Livni, an erstwhile MK (Member of the Knesset) and now a leader of Women Wage Peace. She spoke of her efforts to collaborate with women of all backgrounds, Israeli and Palestinian. She spoke with admiration of Palestinian women who refused to get angry despite the arrests and killings that they have witnessed and of the March for Peace organized by her organization and of American Jewish women who joined their March. Ohad Eleho of Our Generation Speaks described her work in Boston bringing Palestinians and Israelis together and training them to do high-tech work in Israel

 

Remarks followed by Tamar Zandberg, leader of the Meretz party and a Member of the Knesset spoke next. She told of her deep concern for the preservation of civil rights in Israel, and of the current government’s attempt to squelch the NGO, New Israel Fund, for its efforts for African refugees in Israel.  She was troubled by what she saw as a growing contempt for civil rights, a danger, she noted, both in America and Israel, both democracies. Zandberg warned that there was a strand of right-wing populism in Israel, as there is in the United States, that was trying to destroy the Iran agreement. The  Iranian agreement, she maintained, had made Israel much safer as Iran’s nuclear program had been an existential threat to Israel. The rise of right-wing Populism all over the world was a serious threat to Western democracy, from without and within. Some have called the left wing or progressive parties in Israel anti-patriotic [Meretz is the most progressive party in Israel], but she said the contrary was true: hers was the true patriotism.

Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Techers, delivered the Keynote address. The fight in America, Weingarten proclaimed, was the same as the fight in Israel, and so, she said, we owe a debt of gratitude to Israeli activists. Unfortunately, Netanyahu and Trump are very similar and it is important to ensure that the world understands that they do not speak for all of us. She noted that worldwide America is third in economic inequality and Israel is fifth, not a good record. The age of passive resignation is over, she concluded, as we fight for the soul of Zionism in Israel and for the soul of republicanism in America.

 

2. “Activist Under Siege: The challenges Facing Israeli Human rights Leaders”

In this session Avner Gvaryahu of Breaking the Silence, speaking of the current Israeli government’s attempt to demolish the Arab town of Susya on the West Bank, described the tensions faced by those in Israel working against the occupation and for human rights. The Israeli government pushes back hard against such organizations. Gvaryahu claimed that the Israeli government focusses carefully on how it speaks to the Israeli public. It argues, often very successfully if falsely, that an Israeli voter can love the occupation without international repercussions.  The Israeli government sees human rights activist groups as organizations that have given up on Israel and so makes the lives of its members as difficult as possible, supporting their defunding and ignoring physical attacks on their followers. He also argued that the Gaza policy made no sense, especially orders (or impulses) to shoot to kill. He noted that people on the right complain about using the term “occupation”; in truth annexation is their goal. Another panelist argued that the taking of Palestinian property without consent was a violation of international law and yet it happened regularly. Moreover, in the West Bank, which unlike the settlements is under military and not civil law, an Israeli soldier can enter any Palestinian home any time without a warrant. This creates an atmosphere of fear and resentment.

 

3. “Polarized or galvanized? Progressives in Israel and America Tackle the Rise of Illiberal Democracy”

 

The panel included Peter Beinart, an Atlantic contributor, two members of the Knesset, Yoel Hassan of the Zionist Union and Michael Rozin of Meretz, and Congresswoman Barbara Lee.  Beinart argued that the American Jewish community needed to be far more vocal in its opposition to current Israeli government policies. He also expressed concern that there was too much anti-Muslim bigotry in the American Jewish community. He was critical of Israeli Gazan policy, arguing that Israel, which had overall control of Gaza, shared responsibility for the dire humanitarian crisis.

Meretz MK Rozin declared that the progressive wing of Israelis must convince the Israeli public that they too are patriotic and are fully engaged in protection of Israel’s security; and that Israel must preserve itself as a democracy. He said that there was a real danger of annexation Area C, where many of the larger settlements are, would end any prospect of peace. Too. It was important that the world be conscious of what is happening on the West Bank, with both land grabs and the humiliation of the Palestinian population.  He too feared the government’s attempt to silence Israeli human rights organizations such as Betzelem, Peace Now and others. If it succeeded who would assist those in need?  He agreed with Beinart that Israel shared responsibility for turning Gaza into the largest prison in the world.

MK Yoel Hanson of the Zionist Union, who supported the embassy move, warned that extremism is growing in Israel and that on both sides the desire to form two states may soon lose majority support. Unfortunately, he lamented, Netanyahu is not ready to pay the price for peace. That could result in a Jewish state with a non-Jewish majority and the fate of democracy then will be both front and center and at risk.

Congresswoman Barbara Lee declared that the United States was not serious about a two-state solution and that the Israeli government was satisfied with a permanent maintenance of the status quo and will only be moved by nonviolent pressure. It is critically important, she argued, that there be one country devoted to Jewish life, culture and survival, and that that is possible only with two states. Young American Jews, if they become convinced that a two-state solution is impossible, will move toward a one-state solution with equal rights for all, which would mean no Jewish state and the end of Zionism as we know it. We are near, she warned, to that tipping point.

 

4. “Contested Past, Uncertain Future: A Conversation with Ian Black”

Ian Black is the former Middle east editor of the Manchester Guardian, one of Britain’s most respected newspapers. Black argued that there is a great imbalance of power in Israel between Israelis and Palestinians. Too, most Palestinians by now have known nothing but the occupation. In sum, this appeared to be a non-solution moment.  Even so, the only way to approach the crisis was with pragmatic solutions. If a solution was fashioned once at Oslo it could happen again, and this time successfully.  There was no point or value to despair or hopelessness.

Black argued that the Second Intifada had killed the Peace Movement; since then the right has consistently prevailed in Israeli elections. This in turn meant that it was impossible to stop the rapid spread of settlements on the West Bank.  He also criticized the Israeli Zionist left for failing to make common cause with Palestinian nationalism. 

Black concluded that he gained hope from young Israeli veterans who, having seen the occupation close-up, left the army convinced that Israel must pursue a different path.  They have spoken strongly about their experiences while enforcing and policing the occupation.

 

5. “The Path to Power: Strategies for Political change in Israel”

This panel included MK Yoel Hassan, Eti Livni of Women Wage Peace, Mickey Gitzin, executive Director of the New Israel Fund and Daniela Scheindlin, Public Opinion expert for the Tel Aviv Review.

Moderator Yael Patir, J Street’s Israeli Director, stated that the question at issue was whether there was a path to a center-left government coalition, like the Democratic Party in America. A practical problem is that, unlike the right-wing Likud coalition, the left divided its votes. Secondly it was difficult in Israel today to both rally around the slogan of peace with Palestinians and to form a coalition with the religious parties.  Eti Livni argued that soon it may be necessary to have a center coalition including the centrist parties and Likud and excluding the hard-right parties. Currently a coalition that included Arab parties, a coalition of both Zionist and non-Zionist parties, is not possible. In the future it might be.

Yoel Hassan recommended talking more on the centrist vision and less about Netanyahu. He argued that the major split among Israeli Jews was not between Ashkenazi and Mizrachi, and not between the less educated and poor and the better off. The greatest division, rather, is between secular and religious Jews. It is splitting Israeli society. Very disappointing is the tendency of the young to disproportionately support the right wing. He sharply criticized PM Netanyahu for seeking to control the press, and Education Minister Naftali Bennet for slanting Israeli education to the ideology of one political party: Likud.

Mickey Gitzin of the NIF argued that the Israeli left is not dead. There is, however, a problem with its leadership and for that think tanks are needed to develop cohesive alternate approaches to the major issues facing the Jewish state. Gitzin believed that something will upset the current political hegemony in Israel and that the center Zionist parties must be ready to seize the moment when that happens.

J Street 2

This is part II of my reporting on the J Street convention of April 2018. The final part will appear next Wednesday.

 

6. Plenary session: “The American Jewish Relationship with Israel: Crisis Point or Opportunity?”

 

The session began with a speech by Tzipi Livni, head of the HaTnua party and formerly the foreign minister of Israel. She argued that differing meanings of Judaism and Democracy were tearing Israel apart, with many Israelis succumbing to alienation.

Her principles were:

1) the Jewish state is not a religious state, but is open to all faiths and to those who have converted to Judaism.

2) that as the nation state of the Jewish people, the rights of all citizens, be they Jew or Arab, straight or gay, must be respected not as a favor but as part of the state’s values.

3) that a two-state solution is the only path forward. (However, she noted, these are difficult days for those favoring this path.)

4) new settlements: settlements are the statements of a very different vision, one of a greater Israel; for those who support that dream, democracy is a burden, not an ideal.

5) were Israel to move away from settlements and toward a two-state solution, most Middle Eastern countries, which had for years been harsh adversaries, would accept and welcome Israel into a new Middle East community

5) the current government’s policies of attempting to limit the opposition with onerous rules and regulations is limiting freedom of speech.

It is time, she concluded, to fight for democracy both in Israel and all over the world. “Human rights” and “Peace” are too often dirty words in Israel. It is not enough to speak about shared American-Israeli values, it is more important to keep them.

 

The panel discussion was moderated by JJ Goldberg, formerly editor of the Forward. He remarked that the left in both Israel and America are seldom united while the right is, creating a serious disadvantage for the left and center.  Furthermore, progressives must not allow despair about the current situation to paralyze their efforts for a better future.

Janet Aronson of Brandeis University noted that while 70% of American Jews stated possessed either a strong or moderate attachment to Israel, when that attachment is examined closely, however, American Jews are vague about what it means. The question that she raised is do American Jews know anything besides the myths, are they aware of the nitty gritty of what is happening in Israel, what the controversies there are?

Rabbi Rick Jacobson, head of the Reform Movement in America, said that while attachment of American Jews to Israel is strong, the policies of the current government in Israel are pushing many American Jews away from the Jewish state. The task at hand is encouraging the growth of progressive Zionism, making it a more significant force. Many American Jewish leaders do not have an idea of the fundamental problems that current Israeli policies are creating.  We in America must, he argued, help to build a society in Israel that truly reflects the Jewish religious tradition.   The army, he argued, is the most progressive part of the Israeli government. He looked to it for support.  It can get young Israelis out of their shtetl, provide them with a wider perspective.

Nadav Tamir of the Peres Center for Peace noted that many Israelis see American Jews as a source of money and as an important American lobby.   That is not a good development. Israel is the state of American Jews as well as of Israeli Jews. They should be fully engaged in its internal issues. He urged supporters of liberal Zionism to put their money where their mouth is and not to be too polite. Israelis do not respect politeness.

Zoe Goldblum, representing J Street college students, stated that Jewish college students generally support Israel but oppose the policies of the current government.  Young Jews no longer accept the sixties’ portrayal of isolated weak Israel or “milk and honey” Israel. They are aware that Israel is a major military power, perhaps the strongest power in the Middle East.

 

7.     “ Iran and the Nuclear Agreement: Can Diplomacy Still Prevail?”

This panel analyzed the Iran Agreement, At the time of the panel it was suspected that President Trump would withdraw from the treaty but no action had been taken. The panel consisted of Emma Ashford from the CATO Institute, Kelsey Davenport Director of Non- Proliferation Policy of the Arms Control Association and journalist Negar Mortazavi of Iran International.

The strong consensus of the panel was that Iran had abided by the agreement to the letter, that this compliance had been carefully verified and that the agreement had prevented Iran for the foreseeable future from becoming a nuclear power. The criticisms about a sunset date, about ballistic missiles were each dealt with in detail and found wanting. (I forego the details.)

There was real concern about the loss of support of the Iranian people if the agreement were to be nullified by the United States and the resulting rise of hardliners in Iran who have never wanted any agreements with Americans. While the other five powers would still support the agreement if the United States withdrew, there were no good options for the Europeans as their companies would have to choose between trading with Iran and trading with the United States or Iran. Few companies would risk American sanctions. The European powers might try blocking legislation but it would be hard to implement. [To now this has been borne out as important contracts with Boeing, Airbus and many other European countries have been suspended.]

Negar Mortsavi stated that with the cessation of Iran’s nuclear program the one existential threat to Israel had cased. Israelis could handle Iran’s movements in Syria and indeed they have, and with no Iranian pushback. The fact is that as Israel is far more powerful than Iran, Iran’s role in Lebanon and Syria and possibly Yemen were a problem but not an existential threat to Israel. There is, he noted, a major struggle in the Middle East between the Sunnis led by Saudi Arabia and the Sunnis led by Iran.  Finally, the claim that the Iran deal has led to Iranian aggression is not credible.  Noting all the deals Iran hoped to make, buying scores of planes from Boeing and Airbus, he argued that that was where the money was intended to go. Would Iran possibly move closer to the Western orbit if the agreement were to continue? It was a real possibility over time. [This is no longer a possibility. Now Iran is likely to be more isolated from the West.  This will likely be a boon to China.]

 

8. “Tough Neighborhoods: Israel’s Security Challenges in a Tumultuous Middle East”

The panel included Rolly Geuron of Commanders for Israeli Security and Brig. Gen. (ret) Isreala Oron, a security analyst, and MK Merav Michaeli of the Zionist Union.

The consensus of the panel was that Israel had never been in a stronger military or strategic position. It was the only potent force in the area; its traditional rivals, Iraq and Syria were weak; it had military and technological supremacy at a very high level.  In his confident position Israel could take risks. Rolly Gueron recommended that to begin the peace process Israel unilaterally withdraw from most of the West Bank to a security border and support an economic basket for the West Bank.  And he maintained that Israel should declare that it had no future territorial demands. There are potential threats, the most obvious being Iran’s attempt to establish a position in Syria, but no existential threats.

General Oren said that there was a promising coalition arising between Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia but that Israel was under a delusion if it believed that it could cut a deal with Saudi Arabia without progress with the Palestinians. Most unfortunately, Israel is doing nothing on the Palestinian front. The government’s choice is not to make a choice. The Palestinians as well, he declared, must make a choice.

Regarding Hezbollah he stated that while it has thousands of missiles aimed at Israel, they will not launch because they know that would result in the destruction of their country. The same goes for Iran, which would be the only country that could order Hezbollah to launch.  if Iran was to get especially strong and pose a danger, Israel would act preemptively. He also noted that the Israeli security establishment is becoming more and more rightist; that was, however, not true  for most military and intelligence retirees who had years of experience in this field.

MK Michaeli said Rabin had made a choice, a choice no longer on the table. He argued that indeed the current government has made a choice: annexation of area C (the area with the most Israeli settlements) with 80,000 Arabs. Netanyahu envisions a state-minus for the rest of the West Bank. Local autonomy but no citizenship, no right to vote beyond local elections, a semi-independent state. He argued that Saudi Arabia would never leave the Palestinians for Israel.

Rolly Gueron said that there are real existential threats to Israel, but they are not military.

   The first is the increasing alienation of American Jewry;

   the second the major internal rifts in Israeli society;

   the third the demographic time bomb with the rapid growth of the Palestinian population;

   the fourth the isolationism of the current American administration that will allow the Russians a greater foothold in the Middle East.

General Oren added that another security threat was that half a million Jews cannot get married in Israel, and that Israel is the only country that does not recognize all Jews in the same way.

Finally, MK Michaeli called for a greater international effort to help the situation in Gaza.

Wed, Jul 25, J Street 3

This is the final installment of my report on the J Street conference held in Washington D.C. in April, 2018. I attach a file continuing the entire report, Parts I-III, for those who may want it. I hope that some of you have found it useful. We will have a discussion of the issues raised here at a future service.

 

Howard

 

9.. Plenary session: The Policymakers: Middle East Policy in the Age of Trump

This session featured a conversation with Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor, remarks by Senators Cardin of Maryland, Shatz of Hawaii and Sanders of Vermont and remarks by Dr. Husam Zomlot, Palestinian Representative to the UN.

 

Rice spoke first of the situation in Syria. She was pessimistic. Russia was there to stay, and Assad apparently will remain in power. When the conflict ends rebuilding will be a problem. There will likely be little help from the outside world. A better alternative is for the United States to remain active in Syria, prevent Iran from creating a land bridge, promise to help in the reconstruction of Syria and become central in final negotiations. She predicted that if the United States withdrew from the Iran agreement we would become isolated from our European allies. Even if Iran did not change for the better -- and it is far too early to know -- it is better push back against a non-nuclear Iran than a nuclear Iran. [This, of course, is now a moot point.]

 

Turning to relations with Russia she noted three Russian policies: that of the Congress, that of Trump and that of the rest of his Administration. [Tillerson was still Secretary of State.] She argued that the United States must raise the cost on Putin for his interference in our elections and Ukraine, etc., but so far has not.

Rice then spoke of the possibility of a two-state Solution in Israel. She stated that the current Israeli government was hostile to it, that Israeli government and society was plagued by poor political leadership. President Trump’s policies toward Israel have made progress toward any resolution more complicated. He has promised a proposal (not yet announced as of July 26) which is unlikely to be balanced.  His positions and statements have made it that much harder for the United States to be a mediator. Yet she remained an optimist; that was the only way she could go on.

 

Senator Cardin announced that while he initially opposed the Iran agreement, he now supported it because it was working. Moreover, who would support or trust the United States in the future if it withdrew?  He said that it was always important to speak critically when necessary of government policies whether of the United States or Israel. He warned of the danger from the rise of right wing populism in Poland, Hungary and elsewhere.  He cautioned that the isolation of Israel was real as was the rise of anti-Semitism. These are real concerns that must be addressed with the right policies.

 

Senator Schatz stated that he came to the conference because leaders were beginning to abandon the two-state solution, the only real path to peace. He maintained that most American Jews, and particularly young Jews, do not believe that the Israeli government seeks peace. The only thing to do now is to hold the line on the 67 borders with adjustments in accord with international law and to change the cost-benefit calculation on retaining the settlements. As for Gaza, a political solution is needed. Now it is a giant prison. Perhaps an Egyptian protectorate would work.

 

Senator Bernie Sanders displayed the charisma that made him such a favorite for many young Democrats in 2016. He is a forceful speaker, very earnest, very driving, and very assertive. He called for a new direction in the Middle East after years of war in Iraq and Syria. He said that he had lived in Israel and was proud of his Jewish heritage He was concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism and racism in the Middle East. Opposition to Netanyahu, he declared, did not make him and does not make J Street anti-Semitic.  

 

Sanders took the Gaza issue head on, stating that unemployment is in the range of 40-60% and misery is rampant. 96% of the water is undrinkable.  Israel can defend itself and does but it can also overreact. Sanders held Hamas, Egypt and the Israeli and American governments responsible. As for the West bank, he warned that the possibility of ending the occupation and allowing the Palestinians self-determination is clearly in danger.

 

Palestinian leader Husam Zomlot stated that the Israelis have partners in peace in the Palestinians.  An acceptable peace treaty, he asserted, would establish two states roughly based on the ’67 borders with East Jerusalem the capital. Jerusalem should be an open city. For the Palestinians the two-state solution with secure internationally recognized borders is, in fact, a Palestinian concession but a necessary one.  Palestinians, Zomlot declared, have adopted a policy of nonviolence which they have maintained in difficult times. In sum, he said, Palestinians say “Yes” to a dignified peace, “Yes” to the ’67 borders, “Yes” to a Zionist state, and “Yes” to two states both democratic and egalitarian. Without a two-state solution there is no solution.  He rejected any kind of interim semi- state with provisional borders. Finally, he asserted that there could be no Israeli soldiers stationed in a Palestinian state.

 

Zomlot noted that for 26 years the United States has remained committed to the two-state solution, both Democratic and Republican administrations, but now it apparently has reneged. There can be no deal, he concluded, that does not fulfill the rights of Palestinians. Trump did not take Jerusalem off the table with the new embassy, he remarked, but rather he removed the table. Current conditions cannot continue. Daily Palestinians on the West Bank are incarcerated and humiliated. Israelis there have civil rule, Palestinians harsh military rule. This, again, cannot continue.

 

Finally, MK Merav Michaeli of the Zionist Union spoke about “’Setting the Table for Peace.”  He observed that no opposition brings down a government; it is the government that does that. He regretfully concluded that the current government is moving toward annexation rather than a two-state solution.  Progressive Israelis are facing their same problems that Rabin faced, and will have to fight the opposition with great energy.  Israel is stronger and wealthier than ever but it must use this strength toward unity with the Palestinians and other Arab countries. The Palestinians as well have made serious errors and need good counseling and better leadership. All parties are responsible for the current failure to find a peaceful end to the conflict. In the United States, he hoped [unrealistically] that Congress might take the lead if the White House was unable to act in the pursuit of peace.

 

 

 

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