By Alanna Berman and Natalie Jacobs
In late February, amidst rising discussion of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s soon-to-be-proposed resolution to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine, Retired Major General Danny Yatom, former Knesset member, was the guest of honor at a J Street town hall meeting in San Diego. One of many such events being held across the country, J Street (and its representatives, like Yatom) advocates for a two-state solution to the conflict regarding Israel’s borders.
In San Diego, Yatom identified two possible outcomes to an alternative solution: continue with the current situation, or separate amicably. Only one option, according to Yatom, would result in the continued existence of a “Jewish, democratic state.”
“There is a vital need that we, the Israelis, separate ourselves from the Palestinians, and to agree and to preserve the rights and the interests of the other side,” Yatom said in a private interview prior to the town hall event. “If we want to continue to have a vibrant and democratic Jewish state – the only one on earth – we need the vast majority of people under our sovereignty to be Jewish people.”
“The ideal situation would be the area that we call the Israel before ’67, where we have 80 percent Jewish people and less than 20 percent Israeli Arabs,” Yatom said. “In this ratio, we can ensure that Israel is both Jewish and democratic.
“Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, there are 11 million inhabitants. About 6 million are Jews and five million are Palestinians. In something like 10-15 years, the Palestinians will be the majority in that area, [which will make democracy very difficult]; but even today, when we are the majority, to continue to control an area with five million Palestinians is impossible if we wish to preserve the state of Israel as Jewish and democratic because the demographic ratio does not enable us to be both.”
Yatom urged attendees to support the Kerry Framework, which has an April 29 deadline to be considered by Congress. When asked what American Jews can do to support a peaceful solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Yatom said the debate is “not for the American Jews to intervene … it is our responsibility and our fate … please call your congressional representatives and tell them to endorse the Kerry initiative”
So where do our local politicians and neighbors fall on the issue? Read on for a quick rundown and share your comments with us on Facebook, Twitter or email – firstname.lastname@example.org.
San Diego Residents:
“In my opinion, this has really been our first good shot for peace in a long time. It has been accepted – by the Palestinian community, the Arab community, the American community, the Israeli community – that the only solution to the conflict is a two-state solution and Secretary Kerry is going out and trying to achieve exactly that. I feel like Bibi’s a good partner for peace, Abbas is a good partner for peace; Kerry is trying to bridge the gap between the two. And I think the fact that he has a framework and a timespan for how he wants it to go, he knows what he’s getting into, I think that if the American Jewish community and the world backs it, I feel like this could really be a good first step toward a solution to the conflict.”
– Rebecca Asch
Co-chair, J Street at UCSD, International Studies Major
“I am passionate about my love for Israel as a homeland for the Jewish people and as a democratic state. I see the Kerry initiative as one of the last opportunities to make that possible. When Major General Yatom spoke here in February he made it clear the status quo is untenable militarily. Jews living in outlying settlements cannot be effectively defended in the long run. Moreover, he argued, Jerusalem as it is will soon become a majority Palestinian city with (most likely) a Palestinian mayor. To those who disagree with Yatom I say, what is your alternative?”
– Martin Bunzl
La Jolla resident, member of national advisory board of J Street, philosophy professor at Rutgers University
“Personally, I support the U.S. involvement in negotiations with Israel seeking peace with the Palestinians. I think that as far as the deal specifics go, what I think doesn’t matter. What matters are the opinions of the people making the decisions – the people in Israel’s leadership – and the people of Israel who have to live with the outcomes of any of these deals. As far as the two-state solution, if that is the position of the Israeli government, then I’m all for it. As an American Jew, as a Diaspora Jew, I think it’s my obligation to support the democratically elected government of Israel because it’s the people of Israel who are ultimately going to live and die by those decisions.”
– David Bramzon
Real estate developer
“While StandWithUs does not comment on public policy, we do hope to see peace achieved through a two-state solution and support our representatives in both the United States and Israel as they negotiate what we hope will be a long lasting peace in the region.”
– Nicole Bernstein
Regional Director, StandWithUs
“These days, perhaps more than ever before, it is clear that defensible borders are vital, while international guarantees are worthless. Israel cannot and should not surrender the strategic hills overlooking Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport to a hostile state. … The YESHA Council together with the vast majority of Israelis – that elected Netanyahu – call on our Prime Minister to stand firm and reject the unwelcome intimidation tactics being employed by the U.S. Administration.”
– Dani Dayan
Chief Foreign Envoy for YESHA Council, an umbrella organization of municipal councils of Jewish settlements in the West Bank
Diane Feinstein, (D) – on March 19, 2013, California State Senator Diane Feinstein, together with 26 other senators, sent a letter to President Obama asking him to reaffirm his commitment to a two-state peace agreement, after authoring a Senate Resolution advocating for the same position.
Barbara Boxer, (D) – Boxer signed Feinstein’s letter supporting the two-state solution.
Susan Davis (D), 53rd Congressional District – Co-sponsored House Resolution 365, “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives commending efforts by the United States to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a negotiated two-state solution,” in October, 2013.
Scott Peters (D), 52nd Congressional District – Also co-sponsored House Resolution 365 in December, 2013.
Juan Vargas (D), 51st Congressional District – Sponsored H.R. 2846 – Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of the State of Israel Act, in July, 2013.