An Open Letter to the American Jewish Community

June 5, 2013

An Open Letter to the American Jewish Community
J Street
June 5, 2013

In a powerful speech earlier this week, Secretary of State John Kerry challenged American Jews to make their voices heard in the struggle to ensure Israel’s future as a democracy and a Jewish homeland.

“For your children, do this; for your grandchildren, do this; for Israeli children and Palestinian children and for Israel, let them know that you stand behind negotiations that will lead to two states for two peoples living side-by-side in peace and security and that you are part of the great constituency for peace,” Kerry said.

How must the American Jewish community answer the secretary’s challenge?

We urge our friends and colleagues to publicly and vocally support the secretary’s efforts. We urge them to say, “We hear you. We support you. You are correct about the stakes for Israel, for the United States and for the Jewish people. This is the crucial moment for us to rise to the challenge.”

Supporting the secretary’s efforts can help set Israel on a sustainable course that promises peace with its neighbors and security for its people — a golden future as a thriving democracy and vibrant Jewish homeland.

There is no better time than now to negotiate. Majorities of both Palestinians and Israelis support a two-state solution. As Israeli President Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Secretary Kerry have all said, there is a partner for peace in President Mahmoud Abbas.

We must therefore, individually and collectively, urge Israel’s government to place on the table far-reaching concessions for the sake of peace. We must urge the Palestinian leadership to make painful compromises necessary to reach a deal.

In other words, we must call on leaders on all sides to lead – and that starts here at home.

Maybe it would be easier to sit back and talk about why a two-state agreement may never be achieved, why this isn’t the time and who’s more to blame for past failures.

But that is a recipe for yet another failure — and we cannot afford for Secretary Kerry to fail. The consequences are too huge and too negative:

The Palestinians will seek and gain membership in the International Criminal Court, leaving Israelis at risk of being accused of war crimes for activities over the Green Line.
A Third Intifada could break out, the Palestinian economy could implode and the Palestinian Authority could collapse, leaving a power vacuum that will greatly threaten Israel’s security.
Campaigns to boycott, delegitimize and sanction Israel, which we all oppose, will gain steam. Israel will face growing international isolation. Israeli artists, academics and athletes will find themselves increasingly unwelcome abroad.
Worst of all, as Kerry said, Israelis will face a future of “perpetual conflict.”
We owe it to ourselves and to our brothers and sisters in Israel to respond. So many past opportunities for peace have been lost or allowed to slip away.

It is time to speak out from the pulpit, in our communities, to our rabbis, to our politicians and to our friends in Israel: American Jews support a two-state solution for the sake of Israel’s peace and security and we will stand behind Israel and the US as they make the hard choices now.

Let’s make sure this time is different.