Why Recent US Actions Distract from the Real Path to Peace: Reflections from CIJA’s Chair

Dec 29, 2016 | A Word from Our Chair, CIJA Publications, Israeli Politics, Media

I don’t know about you but… I’m frustrated. 

Watching events over the past week, from the UN Security Council resolution singling out Israel to US Secretary of State John Kerry’s speech, how could I feel otherwise?

I’m frustrated that Kerry outlined a peace plan virtually identical to ones that Israel said yes to on at least three occasions since 2000. Those proposals were all rejected without counter-offer by Palestinian leaders.

I’m frustrated that Kerry seemed to forget that Mahmoud Abbas has refused to recognize the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and statehood, and rejected Israeli invitations to begin peace talks without precondition. In contrast, Israel’s Prime Minister and opposition leaders have expressly supported two states for two peoples, and have been willing to launch negotiations even in the face of ongoing terrorism.

And I’m frustrated that the same UN Security Council that has proven incapable of preventing the crisis in Syria, where approximately 500,000 people have been killed, chose to denounce Israel’s entire presence beyond the Green Line – which includes the Jewish Quarter of the Old City and the Western Wall.

Perhaps more than anything, I’m frustrated that these events risk dividing our own community, polarizing this issue along political lines, and distracting from the real barriers to peace.

There is significant diversity of opinion among the Israeli people and the Jewish community in Canada regarding Israeli settlements. This is natural in a healthy democracy, and requires nuanced, respectful debate about the future of Israel’s borders and the long-term status of communities over the Green Line.

We can reasonably disagree about the solution. We can all agree that this is one of many issues that must be addressed in a comprehensive peace agreement. But no serious observer can think that settlements are the reason why Palestinians refuse to negotiate and continue to reject the right of the Jewish people to self-determination.

Israel’s 10-month settlement freeze during the first Obama administration, during which Mahmoud Abbas boycotted peace talks for all but the final month, should have exposed this fact for Washington. This is to say nothing of the history of the conflict and Palestinian rejectionism, which predates the post-1967 settlements by decades.

I imagine that, whatever your position on settlements, you share my view that what’s needed from the international community isn’t another top-down solution – be it an unbalanced resolution, speech, or recycled formula for peace. None of these gestures will resolve the conflict without Palestinian willingness to negotiate directly and recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state.

In recent days, we have shared these concerns directly with Canadian government officials. We are pleased that, under successive governments, Canada has been a good friend to Israel and a leader in supporting projects that strengthen mutual trust and build a foundation for Israeli-Palestinian peace. Just as we are emphasizing the real obstacles to resolving the conflict, we are encouraging the Government of Canada to continue working to build peace from the ground up.

These issues will no doubt continue to be clouded by uncertainty and tension over the coming months, particularly as the United States prepares for presidential transition on January 20. Please stay connected with us for updates by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter, or forwarding this email to a friend so they can join our list. Doing so makes it easier for us to engage you on these issues and, when necessary, for us to ask you to take action at decisive moments.

May we all enjoy the warmth of the last days of Chanukah – and joy, health, and success in 2017.



David J. Cape
Chair, CIJA 

Stay in the know!

Get all the latest information from our Newsletter CIJA: Week in Review