The World Jewish Congress’s esteemed president, Ronald Lauder, spoke about the need for unity among the Jewish people at WJC’s Theodor Herzl Awards Gala on Tuesday at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The event honoring Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla, whose parents were among a small number of Holocaust survivors from Thessaloniki, Greece, was purposely held on the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the 1938 “Night of the Broken Glass,” in which more than a thousand German and Austrian synagogues were attacked, Jewish-owned businesses were looted and 30,000 Jews were jailed.
“We are at a crossroads that is dangerous for the Jewish people,” Lauder warned at the event, justifiably.
As a son of survivors myself and a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, I am deeply concerned about the future of the Jewish people, amid rampant antisemitism, chasms in the American-Jewish community and pressure on the Jewish state that the Holocaust proved so necessary.
Throughout the history of the Jewish people, in good times and bad, one issue that has united Jews across every spectrum has been the fate of Jerusalem. Even at times when the Jewish people have been extraordinarily divided, united Jerusalem has united us. This must be seen as one of those times.
Currently, the Biden administration is pressuring Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to enable the reopening of an American consulate serving the Palestinian Authority in the heart of downtown Jerusalem. This would be an unprecedented step – enabling a diplomatic mission to serve a foreign entity in another country’s capital.
At a Jerusalem press conference last weekend, Bennett and Lapid both ruled out surrendering to such a demand. But Biden wants his campaign promise on the matter to be fulfilled at all costs, to the point that he could potentially make such a move unilaterally and illegally, against Israel’s will.
This is the time for the entire American-Jewish community to unite to keep Jerusalem united, because Biden’s move is about a lot more than the consulate.
The Abraham Accords came from then-president Donald Trump making clear that there is no daylight between Israel and the US. He emphasized that lack of daylight with every step he took, from renouncing the dangerous Iranian nuclear deal, to recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights to formally recognizing united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the US Embassy.
Reopening the US consulate for the PA would be a destructive step on the way to undoing other moves courageously undertaken by Trump for Israel, America’s closest and most loyal ally. It would be a sign that the Biden administration is purposely creating daylight with Israel again.
It is understandable that the Biden administration would want to harm the Abraham Accords, which were an unprecedented accomplishment initiated by the president’s predecessor from a rival party. But it would be completely short-sighted and would distance Middle East peace after significant progress was finally made.
This move would isolate Israel in the international community and return to the intransigent Palestinian leadership the veto power that enabled them to quash all peace overtures by Democratic and Republican presidents and secretaries of state in the past. It would also harm chances of formally expanding the Abraham Accords to other countries, most notably Saudi Arabia, which was active behind the scenes in efforts to advance Middle East peace during the Trump administration.
The diverse Israeli government, which is divided on most issues, is united in favor of expanding the Abraham Accords, so failing to do so by refocusing diplomatic energies on the Palestinians again would be a tremendous missed opportunity.
Israel desperately wants to reach out to the Biden administration, to Democrats and to self-proclaimed progressive American Jews. As part of that effort, Lapid and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said this week that they want to immediately proceed with a plan to change the status quo at the Western Wall, which would ignite tension.
Lapid listed several reasons why implementing the Kotel plan was important to him, including improving relations with Diaspora Jews. But the truth is that changing the status quo at the Kotel would divide both Diaspora and Israeli Jews at a time when we can least afford disunity.
Israel must refrain from taking such a divisive step at such a sensitive time.
Like the Israeli government, the American-Jewish community needs to understand what is at stake and present a unified front around keeping Jerusalem united and properly advancing peace in the Middle East.
The writer is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. He was appointed by former US president Donald Trump as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. The views expressed are his own. [email protected]