March 18, 2019
Howard Kohr, Executive Director
American Israel Political Affairs Committee
Congratulations on your upcoming 2019 Policy Conference; this event is an important reminder of the need for continued bi-partisan support for Israel across the American political spectrum. I would also like to commend your organization for your unequivocal repudiation of Otzmah Yehudit. As you tweeted on February 22, “AIPAC has a longstanding policy not to meet with members of this racist and reprehensible party.” During this difficult time with the rise of right-wing racist parties around the world, it is vital for Jewish groups to speak out against bigotry wherever it exists, even when it is in Israel.
We fully understand your decision to invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the conference, as this is your tradition. We also acknowledge that you have invited Benny Gantz, the leader of the Kachlon Lavan Party, who according to the polls is Netanyahu’s main competitor to form a government following the upcoming elections, to speak from the main stage as well.
However we cannot let pass the fact that it is Netanyahu himself who orchestrated Otzmah Yehudit’s merger with Bayit HaYehudi, and is the one who will potentially bring this group of hateful racists into Israel’s government.
It is also certainly not news to you that last week the Prime Minister took to Facebook to declare that “Israel is not a state of all its citizens, Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people—and it alone.” Apparently, the Prime Minister has forgotten Israel’s own Declaration of Independence, which states that Israel “will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture.”
With this background, we respectfully suggest that you consider counterbalancing these extreme views by moving some additional speakers to “prime time” to present the progressive, liberal pro-two state solution Israeli voice. Israel Labor Party members of Knesset Stav Shaffir and Merav Michaeli are already invited to your conference and could make an important contribution in this regard. This would provide all members of your bi-partisan community the opportunity to hear the full breadth of Israeli views, especially those that align more fully with mainstream American Jewish values.