NEW YORK, Tuesday, April 7, 2020 (WAFA) – More than 130 American Jewish leaders have joined Israel Policy Forum in telling Benny Gantz, Israel’s Blue/White party leader, and Gabi Ashkenazi, proposed by Gantz to be the next defense minister, to oppose unilateral West Bank annexation strongly supported by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party.
“We write to you as American Jewish communal leaders who are proudly Zionist, unquestionably pro-Israel, and who have devoted our lives to supporting the State of Israel and ensuring an ironclad relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry,” said the signatories to the letter addressed to Gantz and Ashkenazi.
“In the midst of this unprecedented health and financial crisis for Israel, we respectfully urge you not to use the need for unity in the face of emergency to create a different crisis for Israel by moving forward on unilateral annexation,” they added.
As they strive to put together a unity government after three failed elections in one year and months of deadlock, Netanyahu and his rival Gantz seem to have reached an agreement to annex parts of the West Bank that include the Jordan Valley, the northern Dead Sea and the illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, according to the Israeli media.
This step is seen as part of the so-called deal of the century plan drawn by US President Donald Trump and his pro-Israel team headed by his son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner. Israel is trying to rush this step in anticipation of Trump’s failure to win a second term in office in the upcoming US elections planned for later this year.
“We have strongly objected to Israel unilaterally annexing West Bank territory and applying sovereignty to Jewish settlements, whether according to the parameters of the Trump plan or any other similar proposal, at any point in time,” said the 130 American Jewish leaders. “To unilaterally move forward with such a plan now would be particularly damaging. It will call into question the Israeli government’s priorities during a global and national emergency, shine a spotlight on controversial Israeli policies rather than highlight valiant Israeli efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine, or laudable Israeli cooperation with the Palestinians on health and safety measures, and could create a rupture inside of Congress and in the upcoming presidential campaign during a volatile election season. It will be viewed as political opportunism by proponents of annexation during the worst possible moment and will make it more challenging for American Jewish leaders as they seek to maintain strong support for Israel and pro-Israel policies at this time.”
The signatories to the letter warned that should annexation be advanced, “American Jews – the majority of whom oppose such a policy – will feel more alienated from Israel as a result.”
They called on Blue/While party to adopt their position on the unilateral annexation plan.
“Just as we expect that our own government focus on the crisis at hand without using the fear and uncertainty felt by Americans to push through harmful and unrelated policies, we ask that the leaders of the Jewish state to which we are all so committed do the same.
“We therefore urge you to remain steadfast in your opposition to unilateral annexation,” they said.