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Reform Movement Leaders React to the Elections in Israel

Reform Movement Leaders React to the Elections in Israel

Contact: Annette Powers or Max Rosenblum
news@rac.org | (202) 387-2800

New York, NY, March 18, 2015 -- Today we join supporters of democracy around the world in marveling at the vibrancy of Israeli society and the openness of her electoral process.  We stand ready to work with the Prime Minister, the leaders of the new government, and those in the opposition as well, to ensure that Israel remains strong and secure, and to advance the values of democracy, peace, and pluralism to which we are unshakably committed.

While nothing can displace our celebration of democracy, we do have deep concerns about the result and about some campaign tactics. We are concerned because yesterday's triumph for democracy in Israel may have come at the expense of the Jewish and democratic values we hold dear.  

In a video message to his supporters yesterday noting that “Arab voters are coming out in droves,” Prime Minister Netanyahu chose to use demographics as a wedge that threatens voter engagement.  No public figure should lament fellow citizens exercising their right to vote freely, expressing themselves openly, and peacefully in accordance with the values of a democracy.

We are concerned about the approach a new government may take to working with Israel’s Palestinian neighbors, and, especially with the Prime Minister’s 11th hour revocation of his professed support for a two-state solution.  When the Prime Minister says that if he is elected there “will not be a Palestinian state,” we are left to wonder what type of future he envisions. A non-democratic future in which a Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority?  Or a non-Jewish future in which democracy is preserved, but, inevitably, the Jewish character of the state will disappear?

We recognize what a challenging moment this is, but we also know that a negotiated two-state solution remains the optimal way to resolve the conflict, the burden of which we must not let fall on future generations.

We will work with all those who share our commitment to an Israel in which the government does not dictate religious practices and offers a pluralistic and open approach to religious expression.  We urge the Prime Minister, that when he forms a new governing coalition, it be one that reflects openness and pluralistic values for all of Israel's citizens, a coalition that will not reflect discrimination of one religious denomination over another, a coalition that will reflect the democratic and pluralistic values expressly stated in Israel's Declaration of Independence. 

Ironically, perhaps, one result of yesterday’s election is that our role as North American Jews becomes even more important.  There is significant work to be done in mending the bruised but still strong – and still critical -- U.S./Israel partnership, and we are committed to finding creative and effective ways to be a bridge between the two governments. We encourage all of our members to exercise their democratic responsibility to influence and impact the Jewish State through voting in the elections for the World Zionist Congress – the Parliament of the Jewish People.

As we continue to work to prevent a nuclear Iran, the Israeli government will need, more than ever, to focus on restored relations with the United States.  The threat Iran poses to Israel, to American interests, and to global stability must remain at the top of our agenda.

We also recognize the work ahead of us in reaching out to those, especially younger Jews, who are more critical of Israeli politics, especially when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship.  They will be especially concerned about yesterday’s results, and we will work to educate them, to train them, and to support them as they develop what will surely be a distinctive and thoughtful pro-Israel sensibility.

We remain united in our commitment to Israel’s security, and to the values that can make her the “light unto nations” as we have prayed for generations.

American Conference of Cantors (ACC) - Cantor Mark Goldman, President; Rachel Roth, Managing Director
Association of Reform Jewish Educators (ARJE) - Deborah Niederman, President; Rabbi Stanley Schickler, Executive Director
Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA) - Rabbi Josh Weinberg, President; Rabbi Bennett Miller, Chair
ARZA Canada - Les Rothschild, President
Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) - Rabbi Denise L. Eger, President; Rabbi Steve Fox, Chief Executive Officer
NFTY: The Reform Jewish Youth Movement - Debbie Rabinovich, President; Micol Zimmerman, Director
Women of Reform Judaism (WRJ) - Blair Marks, President; Rabbi Marla J. Feldman, Executive Director
World Union for Progressive Judaism (WUPJ) - Rabbi Daniel Freelander, President; Mike Grabiner, Chair
Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) - Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President; Steve Sacks, Chair of the Board of Trustees

Published: 03/18/2015