The government of Israel could soon begin formally annexing a significant portion of the West Bank. As the leader of an ecumenical and nonpartisan organization focused on advocating for a just and lasting end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine, I am deeply worried annexation will entrench inequalities and abuses of Palestinian human rights. Such moves would also diminish the prospect for a future in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security.
Earlier this week, as part of my commitment to speak out against annexation, I joined more than 30 Christian clergy and leaders from across the country, in letters to both the Republican and Democratic National Committees. In the letter, we ask both political parties to adopt platforms related to Israel/Palestine that affirm “both a commitment to Israel and its security and a commitment to Palestinian rights. [The platforms] should include clear opposition to ongoing occupation, settlement expansion and any form of unilateral annexation of territory in the West Bank.” Opposition to annexation, settlement expansion, and the ongoing occupation of Palestinian lands should not be a partisan issue. Both the Republican and Democratic parties must commit to platforms that will ensure the U.S. can play a proactive role in bringing about a comprehensive and just end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine.
The letter from Christian leaders is part of a growing chorus of interfaith voices, united in shared Jewish and Christian values, calling on both parties to take seriously the need to oppose occupation, settlement expansion, and unilateral annexation. J Street, the pro-Israel, pro-peace organization that has emerged as one of the strongest voices in the U.S. Jewish community opposing annexation, launched a campaign to ensure leaders in both parties hear loudly and clearly the call for platforms that emphasize an ongoing commitment to Israel alongside a call for Palestinian rights, the latter of which has been absent in previous iterations. In March, over 200 Jewish clergy and communal leaders sent similar letters to the Republican and Democratic National Committees. Together, these letters represent a significant portion of Christians and Jews within the United States who know it is possible to support Israel’s security and Palestinian rights and want Republican and Democratic platforms to reflect this reality.
Why do so many U.S. Christians and Jews oppose these policies? Put simply, annexation, settlement expansion, and the ongoing occupation hurt both Israelis and Palestinians. While Palestinians will bear the brunt of the harm, these policies actively work to discourage a peace process, create further fractures within Israeli and Palestinian civil societies, and contribute to regional instability that will make both Israelis and Palestinians less safe. Palestinian Christians are particularly vulnerable to the impact of annexation. Without a change in policies and an end to the occupation, in the coming years, the small yet powerful Christian community might not remain in the place where our faith began.
The United States has a moral responsibility to promote human rights, justice, and peace, both at home and abroad. In order to do so effectively, both the Democratic and Republican parties must adopt platforms on Israel/Palestine that will seek to bring both parties together instead of encouraging conditions that will only sow further discord. As both parties draft their respective platforms, instead of seeking to score political points or encourage partisanship, the focus should be on adopting policies that will help bring about peace in the Holy Land.
With annexation looming, the facts on the ground are certainly discouraging. However, my spirit is renewed by the efforts of Christians and Jews in the United States to come together to call our leaders to pursue policies rooted in justice and equality for both Israelis and Palestinians. The prophet Micah reminds us that at all times God calls us to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6.8). May these efforts to call for a more holistic approach to Israel/Palestine in the party platforms push us closer to the justice and kindness that God envisions for all people.