Reform Rabbis support Obama call to “stop settlements”

Recently the Central conference of American Rabbis [CCAR], the Reform Movement’s rabbinical association, issued a statement containing the following:

The CCAR has also long seen settlements in the West Bank as potential obstacles to peace. Repeatedly, we have called for freezing settlement activity. Establishing new settlements or “outposts,” or continuing to expand existing settlements, even by “natural growth,” does not serve the cause of Israel or of peace…

Most recently, President Barack Obama has insisted that Israel freeze all settlement activity in occupied territory. His call echoes those of the last two administrations, though admittedly with a new level of intensity. We believe the President’s position and outspokenness on this issue to be in the best interest of the United States, of the State of Israel, and of peace.

Apparently US Reform Jews didn’t object:

[Rabbi Ellen Weinberg] Dreyfus [CCAR co-chair], who was in Israel for the wedding of a relative, told The Jerusalem Post Sunday that the CCAR statement was a reaction to US President Barack Obama’s Cairo address at the beginning of the month, in which he said the US did not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements and added, “It is time for these settlements to stop…”

Dreyfus added that while the CCAR statement had not been preceded by a vote among members, she felt it represented mainstream opinion among Reform Jews in America. “Of a dozen or so e-mails, only one was critical[,] because our message was not strong enough,” said Dreyfus. — Jerusalem Post

Somehow I let this one go by, so here is the email I sent tonight to Rabbi Dreyfus:

Dear Rabbi Dreyfus,

I admit that I have been derelict in my duty as a member of a Reform Jewish congregation in that I failed to protest the CCAR decision to uncritically support President Obamas’s demand that all “settlement activity” in “occupied territory” be frozen.

In my opinion, this demand both violates Israel’s sovereignty and is unjust:

1) Some of the ‘settlements in occupied territory’ are neighborhoods in East Jerusalem or towns in Gush Etzion where Jews lived prior to 1948, when Jordanian troops invaded Judea and Samaria. They murdered and forced Jewish residents out of their homes, and Jews were not permitted to return until the 19-year illegal Jordanian occupation was ended in 1967. Is it just that Jews are now to be forbidden — by yet another foreign power — to build within these neighborhoods and settlements?

2) The Obama decree applies to all settlements equally, those which would certainly be part of Israel in any two-state agreement, and “illegal outposts” which do not have the sanction of the Israeli government. Is this just or reasonable?

3) The previous administration made agreements with Israel that the Roadmap restrictions on “settlement activity” would not include “natural growth” within certain settlements. Now the US is reneging on these commitments, and it appears that it is also backing out of more general ones made in the 2004 letter to PM Sharon from President George Bush. Does the CCAR condone the US going back on its word?

These are a few of the pertinent questions that can be asked about what appears to be a decision based on partisan political considerations, and which weakens the ability of the government of Israel to resist the pressure from the Obama administration to make dangerous concessions, concessions which are likely to lead to a hostile Hamas state in the West Bank rather than peace.

I’ll be happy to publish your answers in

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