US Reform chief: Settlement decision undercuts fight against BDS

Jacobs says new legal opinion will endanger viability of Israel as a Jewish, democratic state.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs (photo credit: JFNA)
Rabbi Rick Jacobs
(photo credit: JFNA)
The head of the Reform movement in North America Rabbi Rick Jacobs has said that the US government’s new position that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not illegal will undercut the fight against BDS and the delegitimization of Israel in the US, specifically on college campuses.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Jacobs stood by his movement’s criticism of the decision, which he said would be seen as a green light in Israel for “settlement proliferation” as well as efforts to annex the settlements, which he said would severely jeopardize Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.
“This [decision] is not the only obstacle to resuming negotiations towards a two-state solution, but the settlements remain a major obstacle,” Jacobs told the Post on Tuesday.
“The US is giving a green light to settlements and settlement expansion. This could also be interpreted as a first step toward supporting any Israeli annexation efforts,” he said.
Immediately following the announcement on Monday, Knesset Speaker and Likud MK Yuli Edelstein said, “The next step is the application of Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria,” while another Likud MK said “No time should be lost” in applying Israeli sovereignty over the settlements.
“If settlements continue and there is no resolution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, then there are very real possibilities for a one-state solution, which would which would deny either Palestinians civil rights, or deny the Jewish character of the state, which is essential to all of us,” said Jacobs.
The rabbi acknowledged that “today there are certainly questions about the Palestinians’ readiness to enter real negotiations,” but said that “long-term solutions which are not based on the two-state solution” would “compromise either the Jewish character or democratic character” of Israel, which he said would be “unthinkable for most in the Jewish world.”
Jacobs also argued that the decision of the US to reverse its position that Israeli settlements are illegal would harm efforts in North America, particularly on college campuses, to fight the BDS movement being waged against Israel.
He insisted that the Reform movement was strongly Zionist, noting his own recent criticism of leading Democrats for comments that they would consider conditioning US military aid to Israel on its policies in the West Bank.
Jacobs argued however that this latest step by the Trump administration would make things harder in the fight against Israel’s enemies.
“We fight against BDS every day, we fight against it on college campus campuses, and the only truly effective argument against BDS is to make the strong case that it undermines the possibility of a two-state solution. It tips everything towards one state, and denies Israel’s fundamental right to exist,” said the Reform leader.
“We are fighting against BDS, we will continue to do so, but this decision will make it much more difficult to prevail in those difficult arguments.”
Jacobs rejected the claim that the Reform Movement’s opposition to the new US position would divide North American Jewry in the light of the strong support of several Orthodox groups to the announcement, saying that the settlements issue had divided the broader Jewish community in the US and Canada “for a good long while.”
He added that polling of North American Jewry showed overwhelming support for a two-state solution, particularly among the non-Orthodox community.
Asked why the presence of Israeli settlements should be seen as an obstacle to a two-state solution if their residents would be willing to remain in a putative Palestinian state, Jacobs said that the expansion and proliferation of settlements was leading to increasing demands for annexation of the territories, a resolution acceptable to both Israel and the Palestinians would become ever harder.
Jacobs added that he found the timing of the announcement to be “troubling and frankly curious,” given its close proximity to the end of Blue and White Party chairman Benny Gantz’s time to form a new coalition.