As one of 2100 Reform Rabbis serving Jewish communities in America and around the world, I am a subscriber to a private list-serve called RAVKAV on which we rabbis discuss and debate just about everything of importance in Jewish life today. I post some of my blogs and other colleagues do the same when we wish to share ideas with one another. Often there is a long email chain of give and take. Our tone is always collegial, respectful and civil, though there are times when we disagree with one another strongly, as happened this week between me and a colleague on the east coast.
I posted one of my recent blogs on RAVKAV that I wrote in response to news reports that the White House is now debating what, if anything, President Obama will do concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the remaining year of his term (see – http://www.rabbijohnrosove.wordpress.com – “It’s about time! The President should lay out parameters for an Israeli-Palestinian End-of-Conflict Agreement Now.”).
My east-coast colleague challenged me and other rabbis who hold to the same views as I:
“I presume the RAVKAV reader needs no reminder that at the moment in Israel there is little interest in pursuing peace with the Palestinians. Managing the conflict is not only the policy of the ruling coalition, it is the view of Yitzhak Herzog, the leader of Labor. This isn’t for want of peace; rather, it’s because the matzav doesn’t present workable conditions. This will not be solved because Obama says so.
Which Israeli would wish on Israel a US-imposed peace agreement that would see a Hamas conquest of the West Bank?
Yet this is the continuing desire of J Street, that pro-Israel and pro-peace organization that naively believes it’s got the answers to life’s troubling questions, and is reflected in Rabbi Rosove’s recent blog post.”
I wrote back:
“I and J Street are under no illusion (nor is President Obama, Martin Indyk, Dennis Ross, Daniel Kurtzer, Secretary Kerry, Hillary Clinton and anyone who has been dealing seriously with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over many years) that a peace agreement is possible now in this environment….
J Street’s purpose in calling upon the Obama administration to state publicly its belief that an end-of-conflict agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is achievable based upon certain perameters is for one purpose and one purpose only – so that these perameters can be the basis for an end-of-claims two-state solution now or at some time in the future.
The charge that J Street’s and my position is naive, that we don’t understand Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, that we are bleeding-heart liberals motivated by kumbaya campfire feel-good sentiments without a clue about the true nature of realpolitik in the Middle East is false and misleading about J Street generally and about achievable goals specifically.
I think it’s time that those who take this view stop and recognize that there are legitimate positions on this issue other than their own that are not naïve and that are based in concrete realities that may indeed have solutions, as difficult as that is to imagine.
No one in J Street denies that the way to peace includes first and foremost face-to-face negotiations between the parties, serious compromise on both sides, and public statements to our respective populations accepting the legitimacy of the other’s national existence and national rights. The second is the necessity that there be regional and international support for any agreement cut between Israel and the Palestinians. Perhaps a UN Security Council resolution first that states the Obama parameters, necessary compromises and need for mutual recognition is what is needed now in order to give support to and cover for Israelis and the Palestinians against the extremists in their populations who will do almost anything to undermine negotiations.
Re: Hamas taking over the West Bank – J Street too is deeply concerned about fundamentalist terrorist groups taking over the West Bank and continuing to operate unfettered in Gaza. All kinds of security guarantees will be necessary in a future agreement.
For those who want to “manage the crisis” indefinitely (that isn’t Herzog’s position, by the way – he wants to stop the stabbings, restore calm, and then renew negotiations for an end-of-conflict two-state solution), that is a prescription for endless war, violence and the eventual demise and unraveling of the democratic Jewish state of Israel.
To those who deny that this unraveling is possible I ask you where is your recognition of realpolitik in your position?