US Presbyterians vote to ‘re-evaluate’ two-state solution


(JTA) — Several Jewish groups objected as The Presbyterian Church (USA) passed several resolutions aimed at pressuring Israel and re-evaluating church support for the two-state solution.

At the church’s General Assembly in Portland, Oregon, that ended Sunday, one resolution approved the report by a committee looking at the two-state solution and possible alternatives, “including but not limited to that of two sovereign states — Israel and Palestine.” The report, approved 429-129, said the church “stands with the people of Israel, affirming their right to exist as a sovereign nation” just as they affirm such rights for Palestinians.

However, the report also suggested that facts on the ground, mostly but not solely the fault of Israel, have made the possibility of a two-state solution dim if not impossible.

Another resolution called for the “prayerful study” of the church’s use of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and opposition to BDS.

A third resolution urged the realty company RE/MAX to stop the sales of property within Jewish settlements. Supporters of the overture reportedly said they received a letter from RE/MAX CEO Dave Liniger prior to the General Assembly stating that the company “will no longer receive any income from the sale of Jewish settlement properties in the West Bank.”

The Anti-Defamation League and the American Jewish Committee expressed their displeasure with the church’s actions.

“We are deeply disappointed with the Presbyterian Church’s decision to embrace motions which forward arguments in favor of a bi-national state and of the anti-Israel BDS campaign,” Rabbi David Sandmel, ADL’s director of interfaith affairs, said in a statement. “Any alternative to the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would mean the demise of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, a view that is offensive to millions of Israelis and Jews around the world.”

The AJC “deplored” the adoption of the report, according to a statement.

“For those who seek an enduring Israeli-Palestinian peace it is deeply disappointing that a major Protestant denomination in the U.S. with deep roots in the Middle East has chosen to be a cheerleader for those whose vision of peace does not include the State of Israel,” said Emily Soloff, AJC Associate Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, who attended the assembly. “Sadly, efforts to moderate the Presbyterian trajectory toward rejection of peace were derailed.”

The report by the church’s Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy acknowledged that alternatives to the two-state solution are “less attractive political possibilities,” including a “Jewish-dominated state that further oppresses the Palestinians, or a potential Arab/Muslim majority state that could conceivably subject Jewish Israelis to expulsion or subjugation.”

The plenary also approved a report submitted by the Advisory Committee supporting measures that revoke tax deductions and 501(c) 3 status to organizations that promote and finance Israeli settlements. It encouraged Congress to investigate the use of U.S.-made equipment in so-called Israeli human rights violations, and supporting the enforcement of laws requiring the labeling of settlement products as such.

The church itself acknowledged that delegates to the Assembly were divided over the Advisory Committee’s paper, with some saying that its “tone and rhetoric … did not promote  reconciliation.” Those critics “urged more balance in speaking about violence and injustices committed by both Palestinians and Israelis,” according to the church’s Presbyterian News Service.

On Saturday, the Unitarian Universalists at their General Assembly in Columbus, Ohio, voted on a resolution to divest from Israel.

The measure was favored by 54 percent of the delegates — a vote of 774 to 646 — but did not muster the two-thirds majority necessary for passage.