(Definition of a Majority Opinion Among OHALAH Members – If fifty-one percent to ninety-nine percent of those voting support a particular statement on the Middle East, it may be posted on the OHALAH website and publicized as a majority opinion.)
Majority Opinion Among OHALAH Members on the UN Vote Recognizing Palestine, and Its Aftermath
While the membership of OHALAH represents a diversity of views on issues regarding Israel and the Middle East, we are passionate about our love for the state, people and land of Israel. We are also united in our desire to see the establishment of peace in that region and the implementation of a two-state solution with a state of Israel and a state of Palestine living side-by-side in mutual recognition, economic cooperation, and peace.
In light of this, we are aware that the recent recognition of Palestine by the UN General Assembly is a tremendously important and profound moment for the Palestinian people. We honor its importance to the Palestinian people, even though many of us greet the news with trepidation about what this will mean for Israel. Only time will tell whether or not this recognition will actually move the peace process forward. We pray that this is a moment when hearts can open, and steps can be taken to pursue peace, and we call on both Israel and the newly-recognized Palestine to do everything in their power to actively pursue a just, lasting and secure peace.
As our sages taught centuries ago, when they interpreted Psalms 34:14, “Seek peace, and pursue it”: “So great is peace, that you must seek peace for your own place, and pursue it even in another place” (Leviticus Rabah 9:9). As we seek peace for our own place, for the home of the Jewish people, we also accept our obligation to pursue peace in another’s place, for another people as well as for ourselves.
Therefore, we call upon Israel and the Palestinian Authority to enter into direct bilateral negotiations. We agree with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said that “the only way to get a lasting solution is to commence direct negotiations.” Therefore, we support the United States using its influence to bring the parties together for such negotiations.
We urge the three major parties involved in this process to avoid actions which may be seen as being retaliatory, reactionary, punishing or threatening to the commencement of direct negotiations.
Specifically these would include:
Israel – We are opposed to any increase in settlement construction activity by the Israeli government. We strongly oppose the recent announcement that Israel will build 3,000 housing units in the area known as “E1.” We stand with those such as former Prime Minister Olmert who feel that such move would make peace negotiations much more difficult, as it would effectively divide the northern and southern part of the West Bank. We also feel that the timing of this proposal could not be worse. Coming as it did the day after the UN vote, this announcement can only be viewed as reactionary and punitive by the Palestinians, by the world community and by a significant part of the Israeli populus. In addition, we believe that a move at this time, coming so soon after the tremendous support of the Obama administration for Israel during Operation Pillar of Cloud and the opposition by the administration to the Palestinian UN initiative, will be received negatively by the Obama administration, and will be a source of tension between the governments of Israel and the United States. We also oppose the withholding and nonpayment of tax money collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. Once again, such a move can only be viewed as punitive and would hurt the PA at a time when it needs to be made stronger, especially in light of the perception held by many that the recent war in Gaza has strengthened Hamas. Again, these actions will make the resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians much more difficult.
The Palestinian Authority – We urge the PA to avoid the use of the International Criminal Court to challenge Israel. Such a move would be detrimental to the peace process because it would a) do significant damage to the rebuilding of trust between Israel and the Palestinians, b) politicize these two courts, and c) isolate Israel in international forums.
The United States – We oppose retaliatory measures against the Palestinian Authority by the United States government. These would include Congressional efforts to cut funding to the PA, which at this sensitive time could undercut popular support for the PA, and which would make legitimate security cooperation between the PA and Israel less likely. This cooperation has become a significant force for peace in recent years. The United States should make it clear to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority that in the future, unconstructive unilateral actions are not productive and may have consequences.
Finally, it is our hope and prayer that both sides may be increasingly able to see one another as created “b’tzelem Elokim, in the divine image,” as the Torah says, and thereby to bring about a permanent two-state solution.