March 20, 2015
JCRC remains fully committed to a two-state solution
Minneapolis, MN – Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (JCRC), issued the following statement in response to Tuesday’s elections in Israel:
"On Tuesday, nearly 72% of eligible Israeli voters went to the polls to elect Israel’s next government. This represents the highest turnout in fifteen years for an Israeli election. In marked contrast to Israel’s neighbors, this election illustrates Israel’s standing as the oldest and most stable democracy in the Middle East where men and women of all faiths and ethnicities freely participate.
"With the results now in, it is an almost certainty that Benjamin Netanyahu will become Israel’s second longest serving Prime Minister. The JCRC joins President Barack Obama in congratulating Prime Minister Netanyahu on his victory. No doubt, the Prime Minister’s victory is due to the prevailing sense among Israelis that the threats posed by Hamas, Hezbollah, the Islamic State, and Iran are very real and existential. It is worth keeping this in mind when interpreting what this election means.
"At the same time, the JCRC echoes Republican Senator Bob Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in applauding Isaac Herzog, leader of the Zionist Union, on running a competitive race. The JCRC also notes that the ‘Joint List,’ which represents an alliance of multiple Israeli-Arab parties, is now the third largest party in Israel and that over 10% of the next Knesset will be comprised of Arab members.
"Regrettably, this campaign, much like our own American elections, was too often marred by extreme and divisive statements by candidates from across Israel’s diverse ideological spectrum. Moving forward, the JCRC expects that the projected presence of Israel’s centrist Kulanu Party in the next governing coalition will serve as an important influence. We hope that former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, a highly respected diplomat who was elected to the Knesset as a member of the Kulanu Party, will be elevated to the position of Foreign Minister or some other position of influence.
"Recently, in his much discussed interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the JCRC’s 2015 annual event speaker, former Ambassador Oren offered this perspective on the difficulties which arose during the Israeli elections. ‘The key to maintaining the alliance is to keep relationships close. Israel has no substitute for the United States as a paramount ally, and frankly, the United States doesn’t have a substitute for Israel, an economically and scientifically robust, unreservedly pro-American country in the Middle East. We have to work through our differences constructively.’
"Building upon Ambassador Oren’s wise counsel, we join in the statement of Rabbi Steve Gutow, president of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, in which he said ‘[w]ith the election over, we hope that all parties will work together to ensure a strong and prosperous State of Israel with peace as well as social and economic justice at the forefront. We believe that progress can be made in creating two states for two peoples, and that the next government can make sure that all Israelis, Arab and Jew alike, feel a sense of security and belonging in the nation we care so deeply about.’
"The JCRC remains fully invested in the creation of two states, a secure Israel existing side-by-side with a Palestinian State in mutually and internationally recognized borders. The JCRC is proud of our award winning ‘Challenge of Peace’ presentations where we bring our pro-Israel/pro-two-state solution message to thousands of Minnesotans each year.
As the public affairs voice of the Jewish community, the JCRC fights anti-Semitism and prejudice, advocates for Israel, provides Holocaust education, promotes tolerance and social justice, and builds bridges across the Jewish and broader communities.