Every so often I lay aside all thoughts of originality, and present a significant statement from a respected public figure. Today I follow the lead of Israel National News, World Jewish Daily and others in reprinting the full text of an open letter from World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder to U.S. President Barack H. Obama.
For those of us unfamiliar with the WJC, it is an organization respected world wide, credentialed by the United Nations and other major institutions: “Founded in Geneva in 1936 to unite the Jewish people and mobilize the world against the Nazi onslaught, the WJC is the representative body of Jewish communities and organizations in over 80 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe across six continents. It seeks to foster the unity and creative survival of the Jewish people while maintaining its spiritual, cultural and social heritage.”
Here, then, is Mr. Lauder’s letter to Mr. Obama:
15 April 2010
Dear President Obama:
I write today as a proud American and a proud Jew.
Jews around the world are concerned today. We are concerned about the
nuclear ambitions of an Iranian regime that brags about its genocidal
intentions against Israel. We are concerned that the Jewish state is being
isolated and delegitimized.
Mr. President, we are concerned about the dramatic deterioration of
diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel.
The Israeli housing bureaucracy made a poorly timed announcement and your Administration branded it an “insult.” This diplomatic faux pas was over the fourth stage of a seven stage planning permission process – a plan to
build homes years from now in a Jewish area of Jerusalem that under any
peace agreement would remain an integral part of Israel.
Our concern grows to alarm as we consider some disturbing questions. Why
does the thrust of this Administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame
Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks? After all, it is the
Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate.
Israel has made unprecedented concessions. It has enacted the most far
reaching West Bank settlement moratorium in Israeli history.
Israel has publicly declared support for a two-state solution. Conversely,
many Palestinians continue their refusal to even acknowledge Israel’s right
The conflict’s root cause has always been the Palestinian refusal to accept
Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Every American President
who has tried to broker a peace agreement has collided with that Palestinian
intransigence, sooner or later. Recall President Clinton’s anguish when his
peace proposals were bluntly rejected by the Palestinians in 2000.
Settlements were not the key issue then.
They are not the key issue now.
Another important question is this: what is the Administration’s position
on Israel’s borders in any final status agreement? Ambiguity on this matter
has provoked a wave of rumors and anxiety. Can it be true that America is
no longer committed to a final status agreement that provides defensible
borders for Israel? Is a new course being charted that would leave Israel
with the indefensible borders that invited invasion prior to 1967?
There are significant moves from the Palestinian side to use those
indefensible borders as the basis for a future unilateral declaration of
independence. How would the United States respond to such a reckless course of action?
And what are America’s strategic ambitions in the broader Middle East? The
Administration’s desire to improve relations with the Muslim world is well
known. But is friction with Israel part of this new strategy? Is it
assumed worsening relations with Israel can improve relations with Muslims? History is clear on the matter: appeasement does not work. It can achieve the opposite of what is intended.
And what about the most dangerous player in the region? Shouldn’t the
United States remain focused on the single biggest threat that confronts the
world today? That threat is a nuclear armed Iran. Israel is not only
America’s closest ally in the Middle East, it is the one most committed to
this Administration’s declared aim of ensuring Iran does not get nuclear
Mr. President, we embrace your sincerity in your quest to seek a lasting
peace. But we urge you to take into consideration the concerns expressed
above. Our great country and the tiny State of Israel have long shared the
core values of freedom and democracy. It is a bond much treasured by the
Jewish people. In that spirit I submit, most respectfully, that it is time
to end our public feud with Israel and to confront the real challenges that
we face together.
Ronald S. Lauder
World Jewish Congress