For decades Reconstructing Judaism and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association have advocated for a negotiated, two-state resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on security, dignity, human rights, and freedom for Israelis and Palestinians alike. The peace we have advocated envisions an end to Israel’s role as an occupying power, and the acceptance by all nations of Israel’s permanent place in the region as a Jewish and democratic state.
The Trump Administration’s new proposal to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been lauded by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Head of the Opposition Benny Gantz, though the two leaders have signaled different approaches to what they would like to do with it. Netanyahu sees in the plan a green light to begin annexing West Bank lands that the plan envisions will be part of Israel in the future. He has already announced plans to hold a cabinet vote in days on a proposal to annex the Jordan Valley in the West Bank. Gantz, in contrast, has told the Trump Administration that he thinks nothing in the plan should be implemented before the March 2, 2020 Israeli election, and that he wants to include Palestinian, Jordanian, and other Arab leaders in renewed talks based on the plan as a starting point.
While we would welcome any meaningful progress towards achieving the kind of just and lasting peace that Israelis and Palestinians both deserve, we are concerned that the process leading up to the unveiling of the plan has not included Palestinians at all. In stark contrast with past Israeli-Palestinian agreements brokered by US administrations of both parties, the Trump-Kushner plan was presented to the public without any Palestinian leaders standing alongside their Israeli and American counterparts. The plan offers Israel sovereignty over close to a third of the West Bank, as well as over all of the current settlements, including those deep in the West Bank. It envisions a possible future Palestinian state in Gaza and in a Swiss cheese-like territory encompassing about two-thirds of the West Bank, dotted by Israeli settlements and exclusive-use settlement access roads. The Palestinian Authority has, as expected, already rejected the plan.
We continue to hope that we will see Israeli and Palestinian leaders find a way to reach a mutually acceptable, two-state, permanent agreement that allows both peoples to live in dignity, security, and peace. We worry that the Trump-Kushner proposal makes that possibility ever more remote, especially if it serves to usher in a period of rapid Israeli annexation of West Bank lands – a move on Israel’s part that would likely result in increased international isolation of Israel. The need for sustained US leadership towards achieving a just and lasting peace between Israel and Palestine is real, and we welcome any administration’s sincere efforts to do the hard work needed to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders back to the table to finish the work that each of the previous four US administrations has tried to bring to fruition. Unfortunately, this plan appears to create new opportunities for the Israeli government to pursue annexationist goals with American backing, while using the language of peace-making in ways that mask the one-sided nature of the proposal.