Until recently, a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was a key talking point of the pro-Israel community. But at this week’s policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), attended by more than 18,000 people, scant mention was made of what had been the centerpiece of U.S. policy in the region.
As Shira Hanau, a staff writer for The New York Jewish Week, NJJN’s sister publication, reports from the Washington conference, AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr did not mention it in his policy address, setting the tone for a conference that planners said was intended to underline the diversity of AIPAC’s corps of activists and reinforce a traditional focus on bipartisanship that critics say has eroded in recent years.
Whether or not the group is shifting away from its longstanding support for two states, the omission reflects a core dilemma for the pro-Israel lobby in a changing political and communal climate.
The pro-Israel leadership is caught between an Israeli government that is moving to the right on a range of issues, including decades-old fundamentals of Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy, and an American-Jewish community that still supports those fundamentals. The dilemma is all the sharper because President Donald Trump, reviled by many American Jews for his domestic policies and his apparent tolerance for white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, is in a warm embrace with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu— an embrace now even tighter in light of the president’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israeli territory.
Can AIPAC reasonably be expected to advance positions that are in direct opposition to those of the elected government in Jerusalem and a growing proportion of the Israeli public?
Yet as a group claiming to represent a broad spectrum of pro-Israel Americans, is it prudent for the group to signal endorsement of a shift in Israel that clearly is not supported by the Jewish community here?
Continuing official advocacy of a two-state solution puts groups such as AIPAC at odds with a rising political tide in Israel. But backing away from that support risks the allegiance of a majority of American Jews and could accelerate the growing detachment from Israel among many, especially among the young.
That’s the tightrope American-Jewish leaders — the challenge is not AIPAC’s alone — must learn to navigate. There are no easy answers, but we do know that the outcome will have a major impact on how a majority of American Jews view their connection to the Jewish state. And that, in turn, will affect the political environment for pro-Israel activism for years to