Local Jewish leaders are strategizing as Palestinians prepare to press the United Nations for unilateral recognition of statehood.
Two representatives of a national pro-Israel coalition met with members of the Community Relations Committee of United Jewish Communities of MetroWest NJ on Sept. 6, emphasizing support for a petition opposing the move.
The Israel Action Network, a joint venture of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, says the push for unilateral statehood undermines the long-standing consensus for a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and may further isolate Israel.
The IAN staffers described a media campaign to show “how we can come across as being against [unilateral statehood] but be more positive for peace,” said IAN deputy managing director David Dabscheck.
He said his organization will provide CRC members with advertisements, press releases, and “model op-ed” submissions for newspapers.
“The media strategy is key,” said Dabscheck, addressing the CRC meeting at the Aidekman campus in Whippany.
That strategy is to emphasize that Israel seeks peace with Palestinians, but not through unilateral moves.
“We want to run ads saying, ‘The only way to solve the conflict is through negotiations.’ They need to return to the negotiating table with fair and honest partners,” said Dabscheck.
He said the advertising is needed “to counter the perception that Israel is the obstructionist party.”
IAN and other advocates for Israel have spent months fighting against the declaration in the UN, first with diplomatic outreach.
“Our core message is to support the creation of a Palestinian state that would live in peace with Israel, but through negotiations, not by taking unilateral measures, particularly at the United Nations,” said Julie Bernstein, the IAN’s associate managing director. “We know [the unilateral declaration] is designed to bring pressure on Israel.”
Although the United States is expected to veto the statehood resolution when it comes before the Security Council on Sept. 20, “this is going to pass in the General Assembly, so we don’t want to set ourselves up being able to stop it,” Dabscheck said. “We are not, and it is a big disappointment.”
Citing studies on American attitudes toward Israel, Bernstein said the IAN is targeting the 70 percent of Americans who are neither anti- nor deeply pro-Israel.
“The key is not that they are becoming anti-Israel but that they are disengaging,” she said. “They don’t want to take sides. They are for peace in the Middle East but they don’t want to take sides. We see that as a loss.”
Noting that part of the target group is a younger generation that communicates through such social networks as Facebook and Twitter, she said, “We need to make our argument in 140 characters or less. It’s funny, but it’s the truth.”
The CRC has also cosponsored with the IAN and is urging community members to sign the “Petition Against a Unilaterally Declared Palestine,” to oppose the expected move at the UN. The goal is to collect 100,000 signatures by Sept. 20.
CRC director Melanie Roth Gorelick appealed for support from religious leaders and Jewish organizations.
“Our fear is that there will be disappointment on the Palestinian side because even if they have a state, their issues won’t have been dealt with sufficiently and could lead again to violence,” she told NJJN.