In an effort to secure support for his newly launched “peace process,” Secretary of State John Kerry met last Thursday evening with a selected group of American Jewish leaders. Like Rabbi Stephen Wise before them, who tacitly consented to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s determination to do nothing to rescue European Jews from the Holocaust, they comprised a roster of Court Jews.
Among the organization officials who were invited to display their deference to the Obama administration “peace process” were representatives of the American Jewish Committee, J Street, AIPAC, B’nai Brith, Hadassah, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and representatives of the Conservative and Orthodox movements.
Predictably, Kerry vigorously urged his hand-picked group to “endorse and support” the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that he has been so driven to revive. Israel, he warned, faces the threat of diplomatic isolation if it does not reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians. And, echoing President Obama during his own recent visit to Jerusalem, he warned that Israel faced a looming demographic threat to its Jewish majority without the birth of a Palestinian state.
Both assertions, however, are misguided. Too many nations, in Europe and the Middle East especially, are invested in their hallucinations of Jewish venality for a peace treaty with the Palestinians to dilute their Judeophobia. The evil Israelis, like the malevolent Jews for millennia before Israel existed, are too deeply embedded in Muslim and Christian culture for erasure by wishful thinking.
As for the demographic “threat” to Israel if “peace” with the Palestinians is not quickly reached, it doesn’t exist. The “demographers of doom” (as Yoram Ettinger aptly and alliteratively identifies settlement critics), Kerry and Obama among them, are wrong. West of the Jordan River, where under international law dating to 1922 Jews have enjoyed the right of “close settlement,” nearly two-thirds of the population is Jewish. The percentage of Israelis living in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank claimed by the Palestinian Authority as its homeland) is not far below the percentage of Israeli Arab citizens. And Jewish birth rates are rising while Palestinians are having fewer children.
Conspicuously missing from the meeting with Kerry were representatives of vigorously pro-Israel organizations, including the Zionist Organization of America and Aish HaTorah. But among those in attendance was Martin Indyk, the newly designated Special Envoy for Middle East Peace who will guide the negotiations as the Obama administration’s representative. Indyk, despite an impressive diplomatic record that includes service as the Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs and United States ambassador to Israel, is hardly neutral in his own organizational affiliation. He served on the board of directors of the New Israel Fund, which strongly opposes “the occupation and the settlement enterprise.”
It has always been excruciating for American Jews and their organizational leaders to be caught in the cross hairs of divided loyalty. So it was for Rabbi Wise during the Holocaust; so it also was after the war for American Jewish Committee President Joseph Proskauer, whose apprehension lest his American patriotism be questioned led him to vigorously oppose the creation of a Jewish state. So, most conspicuously, it has long been for members of the Sulzberger family, as The New York Times has consistently demonstrated in its biased coverage – in news, editorial and opinion columns – of Israel.
Headlines every day – even in the Times – reveal the ominous dangers looming on Israel’s borders, and not far beyond them. Syria and Egypt are disintegrating into intra-tribal warfare; Iraq is already there; and Iran’s imminent nuclear capabilities present more than a remote threat. With Al-Qaeda fighters infiltrating nearby crumbling Arab nations, it would be suicidal for Israel to permit a Palestinian state to join Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon along its pre-1967 “Auschwitz” borders.
Secretary Kerry is, of course, free to indulge his Nobel Peace Prize fantasies at Israel’s expense. But given Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent decision to release Palestinian murderers from multiple life-term prison sentences to appease Mahmoud Abbas (and, surely, Kerry), and the likelihood that he will, when squeezed, freeze settlement construction, these next nine months of surrender negotiations are likely to be pregnant with the possibility of the birth of a monster at Israel’s doorstep.
Jerold S. Auerbach is professor emeritus of history at Wellesley College.