Yesterday, July 1, was the day Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promised to begin annexing parts of the West Bank. While it remains unclear how and when these plans will be implemented, it is critical that American Jews voice our opposition, clearly and directly.
Annexation would be catastrophic. It would formalize Israel’s control over millions of Palestinians who lack citizenship, due process, free movement and the right to vote in the country in which they live. It would effectively mean the end of the dream of the two-state state solution and an end to the peace process, and it would make a mockery of Israel’s commitment to Jewish and democratic values of human dignity, equality for all people, and the pursuit of peace.
Not long ago, “annexation” was a word uttered only in far-right, messianic circles. Today it is one step closer to becoming Israel’s official state policy. That the goalposts posts can shift so quickly and dramatically ought to be a stark wake-up call for those who care about democracy here, there and around the world.
We cannot underestimate the feelings of betrayal many American Jews are experiencing as we witness the growing embrace of a truly malevolent agenda from the far right. For decades, we have predicated our relationship with Israel on the conviction that it was an imperfect miracle, striving to fulfill the aspirations enshrined in the Declaration of the Establishment of the State, a Jewish and democratic state “based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel” and ensuring “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
We made sure to credential ourselves as family before offering criticism, and we expressed our growing anguish over the far-right, ultra-nationalist shift in Israeli politics in the context of great love. We worked not to undermine Israel but to support and amplify the efforts of dedicated Israelis working to preserve democracy and civil society there, just as we do here in the United States.
But annexation crosses a bright red line. It would further strip Palestinians of their dignity and deny them the possibility of self-determination. As Jews, who held that same dream for 2000 years, we of all people should resonate to their desire for freedom. Annexation would also jeopardize Israel’s peace agreements, alienate allies and friends around the world, and drive an even greater wedge between Israel and the vast majority of American Jews, all of which would endanger Israel’s future.
And it is simply morally wrong.
It is unclear how the Israeli government will now proceed, but it’s clear that we must continue to voice our opposition. There is now a small window of opportunity to turn the tide against this misguided, transparently opportunistic attempt to subvert the Jewish and democratic nature of the State. We who love Israel and are concerned about its future as a democracy must speak out against unilateral West Bank annexation, and in support of a negotiated two-state solution that honors the human rights and national aspirations of both peoples.
Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founder and spiritual leader of IKAR.