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What’s behind The American Jewish Divide on the Iran Nuclear Deal?

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Council of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations (CPMAJO) Pres. Stephen M. Greenblatt, Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein with Secretary of State John Kerry , Manhattan, July 24, 2015. Source: CPMAJO and Times of Israel

Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry flew up to New York to brief  skeptical leaders of major American Jewish organizations on the Administration-backed Iran Nuclear Agreement announced on July 14th. This followed Thursday’s presentation before a truculent Senate Foreign Relations Committee Iran nuclear  review with Kerry, Energy Secretary Earnest Moniz and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. A provocative question by Senate panel member, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, prompted Kerry to issue a warning to Israel not to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program. Kerry was also caught touting J Street propaganda suggesting that former Israeli security officials from Shin Bet and Mossad considered it a good deal. As reflected in a Times of Israel (TOI) report on Kerry’s briefings, American Jewish leaders expressed concerns about his inability to answer their questions.

However, a poll released Thursday by the Los-Angeles based Jewish Journal  suggested that virtually half of American Jews backed Obama on the Iran nuclear deal in contrast to less than 28 percent of  all Americans. Thus, confirming the deepening American Jewish divide over support for Israel discussed at length in Ambassador Michael Oren’s memoir, Ally. The TOI article on the Manhattan briefings by Kerry to American Jewish leaders noted the results of the Jewish Journal– sponsored survey:

According to the [Jewish Journal] survey, 49 percent of American Jews support the deal and 31 percent oppose it. Among all Americans, 28 percent support the deal and 24 percent oppose it.

Jewish Journal survey of American Jews on Iran nuclear deal

L.A. Jewish Journal survey of American Jews on Iran nuclear deal, July 23, 2015.

The Times of Israel reported comments from participants in the briefings by Kerry:

Among the issues raised were reports of provisions to shorten the embargoes on conventional weapons and ballistic missiles and secret accords dealing with inspections at Iran’s Parchin military base and the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s past nuclear activities.

“It was a very interesting exchange,” one attendee told the Times of Israel. “We spoke rather frankly and he gave his assessment. Some of the things we agree with and some of the things people disagreed with, but that is the nature of this debate.”

“People remained concerned. He filled in some blanks and on some issues people still feel quite differently,” the attendee added. “Whether you agree with his answers or not, it was an important exchange.”

The meeting with Conference of Presidents involved more than 100 participants from a wide range of Jewish groups including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), incoming Anti-Defamation League Executive Director Jonathan Greenblatt, Yeshiva University President Richard Joel, and representatives of the Jewish Federations of North America. AIPAC is vehemently opposed to the agreement. It has launched a massive lobbying campaign in a bid to see it stonewalled by Congress, which is currently reviewing the terms of the deal.

Let’s look at the nuances of the Jewish Journal Iranian nuclear deal survey findings:

The LA Jewish Journal Survey asked respondents’ views on “an agreement … reached in which the United States and other countries would lift major economic sanctions against Iran, in exchange for Iran restricting its nuclear program in a way that makes it harder for it to produce nuclear weapons.” Almost half – 49 percent of American Jews – voiced support, and 31 percent opposed. Jews differ from the national population. Of all respondents in our national survey, only 28 percent support the deal, 24 percent oppose and the rest (48 percent) “don’t know enough to say.”

[…]

As a group, Jews hold these supportive views of the agreement, notwithstanding their mixed views regarding its outcomes. Asked whether “this agreement would prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons over the next 10 years or so,” only 42 percent are somewhat confident or very confident, while 54 percent are not so confident or not confident at all. A slim plurality believes the agreement will lead to more rather than less stability in the Middle East (46 percent versus 41 percent), but a wider margin believes the deal will make Israel more endangered (49 percent) rather than safer (33 percent), almost the same as in the U.S. survey (48 percent versus 32 percent respectively).

But even with their misgivings, Jews overwhelmingly think that, in retrospect, the idea of the U.S. conducting negotiations with Iran was a good one (59 percent) rather than a bad one (19 percent).

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Shoshana Bryen, The Jewish Policy Center

Shoshana Bryen of the Jewish Policy Center in our 1330amWEBY interview in a forthcoming August 2015 New English Review article commented about the American Jewish divide:

In the Jewish community there is an element that believes any deal is better than no deal. The President said, “Please think of the alternative to this deal.  Think of it,” he said. Clearly, he was leaning in the direction that without the deal, there is war.  There is a group of people in the Jewish community that thinks you must do anything you can, to prevent war.  Anything, everything.  If you give up sanctions and accept demands its okay, because you’re not having war. There’s another group of people in the Jewish community, that says, if you give up everything, you’re going to end up with war anyway, but from a less advantageous position.

Ted Belman of the Jerusalem based blog Israpundit was “shocked” by the L.A. Jewish Journal survey findings pointing to the Shmuel Rosner Journal article, The growing divide between Jewish Americans and Jewish Israelis

Rosner opined:

The Jews of Israel oppose the agreement with Iran. The Jews of America support it. The just-released LA Jewish Journal survey turns an assumption into a fact: The two largest Jewish communities cannot agree on a major world development that could significantly change the state of the Jewish state.

Israel will discover today — much to many Israelis’ surprise (because they don’t much understand American Jews) — that it cannot count on the majority of American Jewry to fight the battle against the agreement alongside it. A majority of American Jews will discover today that amid all the noise made by opponents of the deal, not much has changed for them as a group: They support President Barack Obama; they vote Democratic; they approve of the agreement. American Jews are just like Americans, as sociologist Steven Cohen, who oversaw the survey, writes: They are all skeptical about the deal, but their politics dictate the way they ultimately see it.

My response to Belman was The Jewish Journal publishers hew to a reform movement precept-to repair the world. Shmuel Rosner is a left-wing Israeli journalist who made career of viewing American Jews through that lens including opposition to Bibi and the settler movement. If you look at who consulted on this survey – the West Coast Reform seminary of UAHC- there are likely two biases in both framing questions and population sampling. The first is support for J Street among the reform movement leadership and seminary academics. There are 600 members of the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet largely drawn from the Reform movement pulpits in the U.S.  The second is the liberal reform readership of theJewish Journal editions across the U.S.  Increasingly, it seems liberal Jews view Israel as alien to their assimilationist values. That meme comes through in Michael Oren’s memoir.Ally.

Essentially, the Reform movement in the U.S. has returned to its traditional pre WWII anti- Zionist roots.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

The Two-State Solution is Dead. Long live what?

Ted Belman, editor and publisher of the blog Israpundit writes: The Two-State Solution is dead.  All that remains is for the US to declare it so. Palestinians leaders and Israeli leaders have made it clear.

In a speech on Jan 10/14, Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud  Abbas made it crystal clear that he would never abandon the “right of return”, would never recognize Israel as a Jewish state and would never make a deal unless East Jerusalem was given to the Palestinians as their capital, all of which cross Israel’s red lines.

When the latest “peace process was getting started, Israeli leaders kept referring to Abbas as a moderate, contrary to the truth, and even referred to him as a partner in peace, also not the truth. No more.

Upon Israel’s release of the third batch of murderers in December and in response to the leaders of the PA celebrating them as heroes, PM Netanyahu said:

“Murderers are not heroes. [..] This is no way to educate toward peace. This is no way to make peace. Peace can be achieved only when the education toward incitement and toward the destruction of Israel is stopped. There will be peace only if our security and settlement interests are ensured. Peace will be established only if we could defend ourselves, by ourselves, against any threat.”

In the past week, Netanyahu, Yaalon and Bennett all criticized Abbas.

Netanyahu told VP Biden that recent comments by Abbas were proof that he does not want peace.

Min of Defense Boogie Yaalon said, Mahmoud Abbas “lives on our sword,” “Once we leave Judea and Samaria, he is finished. In fact, throughout the recent months, there is no negotiation between us and the Palestinians – but rather, between us and the Americans. The only thing that can ‘save’ us is that John Kerry will get a Nobel peace prize and leave us alone.” and “I live and breathe the conflict with the Palestinians, I know what they think, what they want and what they really mean,” he went on. “The American security plan that was presented to us is not worth the paper it was written on.”

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett denounced Abbas as “no different than Yasser Arafat,”

The fact that Yaalon was forced to apologize does not invalidate the truth of his remarks.

No doubt that Kerry is now looking for an exit strategy from his doomed efforts to force Israel to make concessions.

If not the Two-State Solution, then what?

Wm Galston writing in The New Republic on June 2011, said: “Benjamin Netanyahu offers no viable alternative to the status quo, and the opposition offers no viable alternative to Netanyahu. [..] The majority of Israelis actually seem comfortable to the point of complacency with today’s de facto truce and limited Palestinian autonomy.”

He was right. Netanyahu, Yaalon and many Israelis, though they prefer the Two State Solution on their terms, in its absence, are quite comfortable with maintaining the status quo.

But not everyone embraces the status quo. They fear Israel’s further isolation and deligitimation. They are clamouring to be pro-active rather than passive or defensive.

They all want to annex Judea and Samaria (West Bank) but differ on what to do with the Arabs that live there.

Deputy Minister of Transportation, MK Tzipi Hotovely recently said:

“The goal is for Judea and Samaria to be under Israeli sovereignty. It is ours and it was acquired legally in a bloody, defensive war. We must now implement the vision of the Greater Land of Israel and begin to apply sovereignty in all of the territory. This is the vision reflecting belief in the holy precept that the Land of Israel is ours and we have no right to revoke this precept. It is fidelity to the ideology of the Right and the religious public, which believes that this is our land.”

“We must begin a gradual process of 25 years under the heading of ‘annexation-naturalization’.”

‎” We must bear in mind that this is a hostile entity and it is impossible to ‎turn them into citizens overnight.”

Caroline Glick recently published her latest book, ‘The Israeli solution: A One State Plan for Peace in the Middle East’ arguing that whereas in Israel, the conversation has begun about alternatives to the ‘Two-State’ model, no such conversation is taking place in America. Instead American policy beginning with Nixon was and is to appease the PLO, now PA, at Israel’s expense.

“The only thing that should interest us is that Judea and Samaria is Israel,” she says and notes that even though providing the Palestinians with permanent residency and the right to apply for citizenship is not a perfect solution and will damage Israel on certain levels, “it is absolutely clear that it is better than establishing a Palestinian state. Such a state would be the ruin of Israel.”

Prof Martin Sherman, while totally supporting the annexation of Judea and Samaria, warns Glick and Hotovely, to “look before you leap” for reasons he makes clear.  He is adamantly against offering citizenship.

“Topping the list of bad ideas is the notion that, given the proven infeasibility of the two-state paradigm, Israel should extend its sovereignty over the entire area of Judea-Samaria and offer “immediate permanent residency to all its [Arab] Palestinian residents, as well as the right to apply for citizenship.” This is an approach so fraught with manifest disaster that it pains me that someone of the caliber of Caroline B. Glick, for whom I have the utmost regard and with whom I am seldom in disagreement, has chosen to advocate it.

“An almost childlike naiveté is required to entertain the belief that Israel could sustain itself as a Jewish nation-state with a massive Muslim minority of almost 40% – as the societal havoc that far smaller proportions have wrought in Europe indicate.”

Instead, he argues for a  “humanitarian solution” which envisages voluntary Arab emigration induced by generous compensation.

Glick rejects this and the Jordan Option as “irrelevant ideas that no one will accept, especially the Palestinians themselves.”

But were Sherman’s idea be adopted by the US and the EU, the conflict would be fully and finally solved in a decade.

Kerry for his part has resorted to threatening Israel with dire consequences should she not capitulate. In a November interview in Israel he said: “If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that’s been taking place on an international basis,” In fact Governmental sources report that US Secretary of State John Kerry is behind the European boycott threats on Israeli products and companies operating in Judea, Samaria, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

At the Saban Conference in November, he said “Force cannot defeat or defuse the demographic time bomb.”

What Demographic Bomb

While the left, the EU and the USA continue to threaten Israel with claims that Israel is losing the demographic war, the opposite is the truth.  Amb (ret) Yoram Ettinger has been studying the demographics in Israel for a decade and has often written that the demographic trend supports Israel now in the foreseeable future. According to him, Jews outnumber Arabs from the river to the sea, excluding Gaza, by a 2:1 majority and the numbers will only get better.

But the Two-State Solution carries with it a real demographic bomb. If a  Palestinian state was created, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan would demand that the descendants of the original refugees now living in their countries, numbering now over 4 million, be returned to Palestine. If the PA gives up the “right of return”, and most of these “refugees” were to return to Palestine, both Palestine and Israel would be greatly destabilized. So much so, as to require no return to Palestine either.

Glick advises:

“I brief the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate several times every year. Each time I present this plan on Capitol Hill, the response borders on euphoria. In the United States, just as in Israel, there are millions of people who understand that the ‘Two-State’ solution is a disaster. They are just waiting for someone to tell them that they can abandon it. My book gives them, and the Israeli public as well, the alternative that they are waiting for.”

Let’s hope they adopt it.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on The New English Review.