Statement on West Bank Shooting Attacks

Israel Policy Forum condemns today’s shooting attack on Israeli soldiers and civilians. It comes on the heels of the terrorist attack outside of Ofra earlier this week that targeted Amihai and Shira Ish Ran, resulting in the death of their baby that was prematurely delivered as a result of the shooting. We will continue to reiterate that Palestinian national aspirations cannot rest on the blood of Israelis, and that no Israeli becomes a legitimate target based on where he or she lives. Terrorism is despicable no matter the alleged justification, and it must be condemned by the Palestinian Authority leadership and by any Palestinian leader truly seeking a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Video Call: A Plan for Gaza

Following a new joint research project by experts at Brookings and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Israel Policy Forum hosted a video call with the authors of the project and other Gaza experts on Friday, December 7, 2018. Read the full report here: “Ending Gaza’s perpetual crisis: A new U.S. approach”.

Statement on the Passing of President George H.W. Bush

Israel Policy Forum mourns the passing of former former President George H.W. Bush. President Bush’s broader contributions to the Jewish people extended throughout his career in public service. As American ambassador to the United Nations and as vice president, Bush advocated for the rights of Soviet Jewry. As president, he maintained his commitment to distressed Jewish populations, pushing the Syrian government to allow its Jewish citizens to emigrate, and encouraging Ethiopia to accede to the evacuation of its Jewish population.

The elder President Bush will be remembered for his administration’s strong and proactive stance regarding Arab-Israeli relations. In 1991, the United States co-sponsored the Madrid Conference, achieving an historic moment in which representatives of the Arab states and the Palestinians sat side by side with Israeli delegates in a public setting. President Bush’s record served as the basis for successive diplomatic initiatives over the years and remains strong proof, in a highly polarized political climate, that Israeli-Palestinian peace can be a bipartisan pursuit.

At this time of national mourning, we remember President Bush as a man whose legacy represents the highest calling of public service and whose life was consonant with decency, integrity, humor, compassion, and devotion to humanity.  May his memory be for a blessing.

Statement on the Imminent Cessation of USAID Activities in the Palestinian Territories

Israel Policy Forum is deeply troubled by the news that USAID will be terminating its West Bank and Gaza operations by early 2019. These latest developments, the natural conclusion of the Trump administration’s reckless and needlessly punitive policy of withdrawing over $200 million in funding for USAID projects in the Palestinian Territories, are disturbing but unfortunately not surprising. The administration’s approach targets the most vulnerable members of Palestinian society, discourages normalization and people-to-people exchanges with Israelis, and offers a convenient address for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas to direct grievances about the standard of living in the Palestinian Territories and the political status quo. Since the White House first adopted this policy over the summer, it has accomplished nothing to further President Trump’s stated goal of bringing the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Now, with the imminent cessation of USAID activities in the West Bank and Gaza, the impact of the United States government’s ill-conceived decision will be more immediately felt, with serious consequences for both the Palestinians and for Israeli security.

We continue to urge American policymakers to reconsider this misguided course of action. Moreover, we encourage efforts to offset some of the negative ramifications of the USAID shutdown in the West Bank and Gaza with new legislation, namely the Palestinian Partnership Fund Act, which has received bipartisan support in both houses of Congress.

WATCH: Part 1 of #AcrossTheDivide

Part 1 of our #AcrossTheDivide program with ADL – Anti-Defamation League and The Temple Emanu-El Streicker Center.

Moderated by #IPFAtid National Chair Adena Philips, featuring:

Yair Rosenberg, Senior Writer, Tablet Magazine
Batya Ungar-Sargon, Opinion Editor, the Forward
Bari Weiss, Op-Ed Writer and Editor, the New York Times

Briefing Call: Israel-Gaza Crisis

Washington Institute Adjunct Fellow Neri Zilber breaks down the November 2018 Israel-Gaza Crisis, in conversation with Michael Koplow, Israel Policy Forum's policy director, and featuring an introduction by Board Chair Susie Gelman.

Statement on the Merger of the U.S. Consulate General and Embassy in Jerusalem

Israel Policy Forum unequivocally opposes the State Department’s decision to close the U.S. Consulate General in Jerusalem as an independent entity and merge its operations into the U.S. Embassy to Israel. The Jerusalem consulate has operated as the primary point of contact between the U.S. and Palestinians and has handled Palestinian affairs. Shuttering it sends a clear message that the U.S. views all of the territory between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as sovereign Israeli territory and that the Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza - despite not having Israeli citizenship - will remain permanently under Israeli sovereignty.

Despite Secretary Pompeo’s assertion that this decision does not signal a change of American policy toward the West Bank, Gaza, or Jerusalem, by treating all of this territory as a uniform entity and all of the people living there as being under the authority of the American diplomatic mission to Israel, the U.S. is signaling its rejection of two states. This move also gives cover to the Israeli government to proceed with plans to annex the West Bank, in whole or in part. We strongly urge the Trump administration to reverse this ill-conceived decision and to maintain the traditional American diplomatic separation between Israelis and Palestinians.

Statement on President Trump's Comments on Two States

Israel Policy Forum is heartened that President Trump this morning publicly acknowledged, for the first time, that the two-state formula is the best way to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and represents his preferred approach. Nonetheless, these words will remain hollow unless and until they are linked to actions that demonstrate that the U.S. is indeed serious about shepherding a process that will lead to a two-state outcome. Rather than place this outcome further out of reach by behaving like a clearly biased actor, placing security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians at risk, exacerbating socioeconomic problems in the West Bank and Gaza, and strangling civil society groups dedicated to reconciliation, the Trump administration should reverse course and take action designed to safeguard Israel’s security and provide the Palestinians with a viable political horizon. Only by doing so will President Trump’s preferred vision of two states ever be realized.

Twenty-Five Years After Oslo

Analysts and former officials are dissecting what went wrong since the signing of the Oslo Accords 25 years ago this week. Palestinian terrorism and incitement, the murder of Yitzhak Rabin, faulty strategies and tactics, and American hubris are among the reasons cited for Oslo’s failure.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved without Israeli and Palestinian leaders in place who are willing and capable of reaching and implementing an historic compromise.

These leaders will need the United States, their regional neighbors, the international community, and their diaspora communities to support their efforts to reach a viable agreement, not create additional obstacles.

Over the past 25 years, this Rubik’s Cube of Middle East peacemaking has consistently failed to align, and today, the pieces have never been more scrambled:

  • A majority of the members of the right-wing Israeli government are publicly opposed to the concept of a two-state solution. A plurality but not a majority of Israelis support it.
  • The Palestinian leadership is divided. Two-thirds of Palestinians want President Mahmoud Abbas to resign, and he vacillates between talk of compromise and anti-Semitic rhetoric. More Palestinians than ever are expressing support for a one-state solution that would mean the end of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.
  • The United States has refused to endorse the two-state concept and has completely aligned its policies with the Israeli far right: prejudging sensitive issues to be negotiated such as the final status of Jerusalem, cutting all UNRWA and USAID assistance, including support to East Jerusalem hospitals, and closing the PLO mission in Washington, DC. Read our statement on recent US actions.
  • The Arab states are preoccupied with their own internal threats as well as the external threat posed by Iran and its proxies.
  • ​The international community is fatigued with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and is also focused on other pressing matters.
  • Rejectionists in the United States and Europe have championed the counterproductive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as well as a right of return for five million Palestinian refugees and their offspring, which threatens Israel’s very existence.
  • Finally, the Jewish diaspora, particularly in the United States, is increasingly disaffected with the issue of Middle East peace and is fiercely divided along political, denominational, and generational lines.

​Realigning these various components could take years, if not decades. In fact, ensuring that the pieces would never fall into place has been the goal of the opponents of the Oslo process all along. It is much easier to scramble a Rubik’s Cube than to solve it.

But progress can be made even if all of the factors are not in alignment. We must do our part in the United States and in the American Jewish community.

Upon taking office in 1993, Prime Minister Rabin was skeptical that the American Jewish community would support his efforts to advance the peace process. In his final meeting with American Jewish leaders before his assassination, Rabin was reportedly “breathtakingly blunt” in his criticism of the lack of support he received from the community.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be resolved tomorrow. But that does not mean that we should sit around and wait for another handshake to materialize. Much as everyone recognizes that it will take years of effort on the part of the parties themselves, it will take years of preparing the ground for that effort to be successful.

The time is now to communicate to our political leaders and to our fellow Jewish community members that we support the goal of two states and that it is critical to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state that the conditions for two states be preserved.

Susie Gelman
Board Chair

David A. Halperin
Executive Director

Statement on Closure of the PLO Mission and Aid Cuts

Israel Policy Forum issued the following statement:

Israel Policy Forum strongly opposes the recent decision by the US Administration to close the Palestinian mission to the United States. While the PLO has frequently been intransigent in its negotiating stance, the closure of its Washington office will do nothing to accomplish the White House’s stated objective of bringing the Palestinians to the table. On the contrary, the Trump Administration has removed itself from having any credible role as a mediator between the parties and has only increased the likelihood that the Palestinians will turn to international forums to pursue grievances against Israel.

The mission shutdown comes on the heels of another inexplicable American decision to slash assistance to East Jerusalem hospitals not already impacted by the previous $200 million cutoff to USAID projects in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This callous step by the US administration appears to be motivated purely by spite and will leave the most vulnerable Palestinians exposed. Such actions deliver yet another victory to extremist organizations and fundamentalist regimes, which will gladly fill the vacuum created by America’s abdication of its traditional role as a credible political interlocutor.

The fallout from this series of regrettable decisions will be felt most immediately in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza - not by the American policymakers responsible for them.

Ultimately, the Trump administration’s abandonment of nearly three decades of bipartisan American policy regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace and American assistance sets a new and dangerous precedent for US foreign relations. Future administrations may view the Trump White House’s actions as license to either further support an Israeli far right agenda or to tack completely in the opposite direction. The extreme steps being taken by the Trump administration serve not only to upend Israeli-Palestinian relations; they also place the long-term strength of the US-Israel relationship at risk.