By Rabbi Laura Janner Klausner
The move would kill the two-state solution, put Israel’s majority under threat and be intolerable for the Palestinians.
Surprisingly, we agree on far more than we might think. There’s far more unity amongst British Jews than we realise, even in discussions on Israel.
More than two thirds of British Jews believe that a two-state solution is the only way to achieve peace in the region. There is a clear majority who support the principles laid out in the Israeli Declaration of Independence, that Israel must be both democratic and Jewish.
No matter what else we may disagree passionately about, these two core points bring the majority of our community together.
I agree with the President of the Board of Deputies, Marie Van Der Zyl, that we have to be as united as we can be. But when we see a threat to the ties that bind us, we must speak out clearly. Now is the time to do just that.
The possible annexation of large swathes of the West Bank by the Knesset vote on July 1st is a clear moral danger which threatens the two central tenets of our community’s consensus on Israel.
It is not good enough to dismiss the notion of annexation because it has not yet happened. The agreement which will form the basis of the new Israeli government explicitly allows for this course of action to be taken. Those who say it is premature to speak now would likely say as much until it is far too late, until annexation becomes a reality.
I lived in Jerusalem for 15 years. As a proud Israeli citizen, I worked on the Oslo Peace Process, leading the People’s Peace strand, working with both Palestinians and Israelis. The courageous individuals on both sides of the Green Line who I worked with taught me how terrible the situation is for Palestinians there already and how destructive annexation would be.
Should Israel annex the West Bank, it is almost certainly a fatal blow to the concept of a two-state solution to the conflict.
Annexation will lead to a rapid change in the situation on the ground, rendering the concept of negotiating over the land impossible. Negotiations will be totally scuppered because of the finality of the damage to any form of trust or goodwill which existed between the two sides.
Annexation would make a Jewish and democratic Israel untenable. Israel could be well on the path to becoming a binational state, with full voting rights for all within its borders, placing under threat its Jewish majority.
However, a more likely scenario is that Israel would not extend full citizenship rights to the Palestinian populations now formally under its control and would lose any right to call itself a democracy.
In that case, I would even suggest Israel would also lose the right to be called a Jewish state.
The Torah makes it clear: our right to live on the land is dependent on our behaviour. Any annexation misrepresents the values of Judaism
Annexation would be a calamitous decision for the State of Israel to take. It would put the long-term future of Israel in jeopardy and end hopes for a just peace. The Palestinian people of the West Bank, failed for years by their own leadership, would be left in an intolerable position.
Additionally, I am concerned for our Jewish community here and what will happen to us. As with any issue, there are multiple opinions, and they should all be heard within the realms of civilised debate. However, where there is such a clear majority within our community, we should make our views known.
We should make it clear publicly and loudly that we support the existence of a secure and democractic Jewish state. There are plenty of people who will say that it is not our place, that we are not all Israelis and so it is not for us to decide.
We have a symbiotic relationship with Israel and so of course it is our place, and of course we should make clear our views – were annexation to go ahead the damage to our collective and shared values would be irreversible. It would be a calamitous step into the unknown. We have to speak out for the values that the data shows we share. At this moment in time, the stakes are too high not to.
Laura Janner-Klausner is the senior rabbi of Reform Judaism in Britain. She was born and educated in England, studying theology at Cambridge University, then lived in Jerusalem for 15 years. This article appeared in the Jewish Chronicle.