Mitt Romney’s pessimistic take on Israeli-Palestinian peace prospects has drew some headlines in the press but not much noise from centrist Jewish groups.
The revelation this week of Romney’s remarks, in which he suggested that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved at present and that the best that could be done was to “kick the ball down the field,” was greeted quietly by centrist Jewish organizations. Only groups on the right and the left ends of the communal spectrum issued statements in response, respectively praising and strongly condemning Romney’s comments.
But in interviews with JTA, some centrist Jewish communal leaders stressed that the pursuit of peace should not be postponed, although they were not inclined to criticize Romney.
“To let it fester is not in the best interests of Israel,” said Abraham Foxman, the Anti-Defamation League’s national director, adding that he believed the Republican candidate for president “meant well” in his remarks at a May 17 fund-raiser in Boca Raton, Fla.
Israel’s government “wants to pursue peace and they want to believe there is a partner,” Foxman said, citing the little noticed but successful ongoing security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. “It’s not in Israel’s interest to kick it down the road, not only in terms of self-interest but in terms of its relationship to the civilized world.”
Without directly criticizing Romney, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the Union of Reform Judaism’s new president, said that U.S. leadership required action in the short term, not just the long term.
“We need to do concrete things every day, not naively and not with sacrificing the safety and security of Israel – although safety and security for Israel means two states,” Jacobs said. “Our tradition requires us to do difficult things in the world. There is no benefit to delaying.”
Jacobs said that even when peacemaking was stalled, there were incremental actions the parties could undertake.
“When it is not the right time, you can put things in place to move it to the right time,” he said.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee and the American Jewish Committee declined to comment on Romney’s remarks.