Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

An Israeli in America: While 80 Percent of American Jews Supported Oslo Accords, the U.S. Jewish Lobby Helped Netanyahu to Destroy Them

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

An Israeli in America: While 80 Percent of American Jews Supported Oslo Accords, the U.S. Jewish Lobby Helped Netanyahu to Destroy Them

Article excerpt

AN ISRAELI IN AMERICA: While 80 Percent of American Jews Supported Oslo Accords, The U.S. Jewish Lobby Helped Netanyahu to Destroy Them

I was living in Israel in 1993 when Israelis and Palestinians alike, glued to the TV, watched Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat as they shook hands on the White House lawn. It was a moment full of promise, and it managed to infuse hope into a region where people had become accustomed to strife and violence.

This September marked the fifth anniversary of the Oslo peace agreement, but the hope it initially inspired has been replaced by despair. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has rejected the accords which implicitly recognize the Palestinians' right to self-determination, a notion that is tantamount to statehood. He believes that giving the Palestinians political freedom is a compromise Israel should not make; autonomy over civil institutions like education and health is okay, but a state is inconceivable. His intransigent policies have all but buried Oslo, and, with it, the promise.

While it is up to the Israeli public to stand up to Netanyahu's dangerous decisions, which have led to the destruction of the peace process, the Jewish lobby in the United States must also be held accountable for the degeneration in Israeli-Arab relations. It, too, is culpable insofar as its leaders are supporting Netanyahu while persistently ignoring the opinion of their constituents, namely the Jewish population in the U.S.

Allow me to explain. Within the American Jewish community, Netanyahu's position concerning the peace process is unpopular. According to Tom Smerling of the Israel Policy Forum, an organization that conducts regular polls within the Jewish community, 70 percent of Jews "express strong support for the Oslo accords" and want the Clinton administration to take a pro-active stance to move them forward. Moreover, an overwhelming majority of Jews -- 80 percent -- "support the Clinton administration's current efforts to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations."

Despite the evidence that American Jews are pro-Oslo, several Jewish lobbying groups, ranging from the center to the extreme right, have endorsed Netanyahu's approach. Most prominent of these is AIPAC -- the American Israel Public Affairs Committee -- which wields great power on Capitol Hill. …

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