British Jews Are Not Drifting Away from Israel

Last summer, a group of British Jews affiliated with left-wing Zionist youth groups wrote an open letter to the Jewish Chronicle—the UK’s most prominent Jewish publication—proclaiming their support for “ending the occupation.” In its editorial response, the Chronicle took the letter as a sign of a general leftward shift among British Jewry on questions relating to the Jewish state. Simon Gordon is not convinced:

The available data does not indicate a leftward shift. [The left-wing British Zionist organization] Yachad’s own survey of the attitudes of British Jews toward Israel . . . found that 60 percent agreed that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, 70 percent said Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state if they want peace, and 93 percent thought Israel was entitled to take military action to combat Hamas rockets and tunnels. Such views are hardly out of step with those of the Israeli government. This may explain why the Jewish Chronicle’s poll of British Jews prior to the 2015 Israeli elections . . . found that 67 percent would vote Likud, with just 22 percent backing the Zionist Union. . . .

If communal leaders are out of step with the Jewish community on Israel, the misalignment is not the one suggested in the open letter. Far from marginalizing the New Israel Fund, [a group dedicated to making Israel reflect “progressive values”], and progressive youth groups, as the open letter alleges, the institutions of Anglo-Jewry have been all too receptive. The limp defense of Israel by the Board of Deputies [the most important lay representative of organized British Jewry] during the 2014 Gaza War prompted a furious backlash from Jews at a townhall event, who felt [the Board] should have adopted a much more muscular stance. . . .

Misalignment between Jewish institutions and the Jewish community occurs when the leadership mistakes the views of a vocal minority for those of the silent majority. The available evidence suggests that mainstream Anglo-Jewry supports Israel, its government, and the actions of its military, much as it has done for decades.

Read more at Fathom

More about: British Jewry, Israel & Zionism, Israel and the Diaspora, New Israel Fund

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood