Prominent pro-Israel Americans warn Benny Gantz against joining government that would annex West Bank areas


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Some 130 Jewish Americans who have been prominent in pro-Israel activism beseeched Israel’s Blue and White party not to join a government that would annex parts of the West Bank.

The letter sent Monday refers to the negotiations the Blue and White leadership is undertaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party to form a national unity government to confront the coronavirus pandemic. The Israeli media has reported that Benny Gantz, the Blue and White leader, is ready to join a government that would annex parts of the West Bank.

“In the midst of this unprecedented health and financial crisis for Israel, we respectfully urge you not to use the need for unity in the face of emergency to create a different crisis for Israel by moving forward on unilateral annexation,” the letter says.

Among its signatories are figures who have been prominent in mainstream pro-Israel activism, including Steve Grossman, the chairman of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in the 1990s; Tom Dine, the lobby’s CEO in the 1980s; and Susie and Michael Gelman, a couple who helped lead and fund the now-defunct Israel Project and helped revive the Israel Policy Forum, the group promoting two states that initiated the letter. Major Jewish organizational philanthropists like Charles Bronfman and Lester Crown also signed.

A number of the signatories are also active in the Democratic Party, which still emphatically embraces two states while President Donald Trump has retreated from the outcome.

Netanyahu has indicated that he will seize the opportunity of Trump’s peace plan released earlier this year, which is seen as sanctioning unilateral annexation of parts of the West Bank.

Annexation “will be viewed as political opportunism by proponents of annexation during the worst possible moment and will make it more challenging for American Jewish leaders as they seek to maintain strong support for Israel and pro-Israel policies at this time,” the letter to Gantz says.

Also issuing statements this week warning against annexation are T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, a coalition of American rabbis, and IfNotNow, an anti-occupation activist group.

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