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Brit Tzedek v'Shalom

Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace

Op-ed: A true friend of Israel

The Jewish Advocate

August 8, 2008

By David Strauss

What is a friend? A friend celebrates your joys, stands by you in times of trouble – and lets you know when you’re hurting yourself. A friend will tell you how others see you, even if it’s unpleasant.
As a life-long supporter of the state of Israel, I have often wished that someone would be friend enough to tell the Jewish State the things she doesn’t want to hear about the occupation and her settlement policy. Things like: Settlements are an unnecessary weight on Israel’s defenses; they strain international good will; they ignore Israel’s internationally recognized commitments; and they stand in the way of peace.

And so I was very proud to learn that Rep. Barney Frank, my own Congressman and one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in Washington,demonstrated himself to be a true friend of Israel. Writing to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, he spoke some difficult truths regarding Israel’s settlement policy, particularly as it is viewed in the U.S. “As one who supports the essential justice of Israel’s position,” Frank writes, “I am concerned about the role of American public opinion…. A perception that the Israeli government is failing to carry though its agreement to evacuate settlements… is very damaging to the state of Israel.”

Each new settlement home on the West Bank is another step away from a mutually acceptable peace agreement with the Palestinians, further straining territorial continuity of Palestinian lands, making it ever harder for Palestinians to negotiate in good faith, and making the work of U.S. mediators qualitatively more difficult. And each new settlement home serves as one more piece of evidence that the Israeli government is refusing to abide by its commitments to the American government.
As Rep. Frank so aptly wrote: “To the extent that it appears that settlements are being maintained contrary to the needs of a peace agreement, Israel suffers a loss of support within the United States.” Much as Israel may want to hold on to the lands it has occupied since 1967, the time has come to acknowledge that these continued efforts have done – continue to do – far more harm than good. The time has come to acknowledge painful truths, and move on to more constructive policies that will better serve the Jewish State.

Frank understands this. “Maintaining a strict policy of no new settlements and going forward with the evacuation of those that … are obstacles to the ultimate establishment of a Palestinian State,” he writes, “are in my judgment very important aspects of Israeli policy that will not only be
conducive to the achievement of a peace settlement, but will seem to be so as well to the outside world.”

If American politicians, the American public, and the American Jewish community want to truly support Israel, they will follow Barney Frank’s lead and openly and honestly tell one of this country’s closest friends and allies that she must change her behavior – for the sake of her own future. A friend tells you when you have a problem.

David Strauss is the Massachusetts 4th Congressional District Advocacy Coordinator for Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, the Jewish Alliance for Justice and Peace.

 

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