By JON ALLEN, ALON LIEL, and BARBARA LANDAU
For those of us who are life-long supporters of Israel, who share the ongoing concern for her security and well-being, and who long for a two-state resolution achieved through peaceful negotiations, this has been a frustrating time. We are relieved that there is finally a coalition government that can respond to the global pandemic. However, the terms of the coalition agreement raise concerns about whether Israel is slipping further from its inspiring fundamental democratic values, as expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
Many have raised concerns about the consequences of the commitment to unilaterally annex parts of the West Bank, including the Jordan Valley, by a simple vote in the Knesset, as early as July 1. The implications for Israel’s democracy and its security, the possible disruption to significant peace treaties and gas deals with Jordan and Egypt, as well as its standing internationally, create anxiety in the hearts of those who love Israel.
Out of the shared concerns for Israel’s future, a group of committed community leaders in Israel and around the world, decided that an international communication network was needed to speak out in support of Israel’s key values. Over the past several months, J-Link was born with the support of more than 40 progressive organizations around the world. J-Link works closely with JStreet, NIF, Yahad, Peace Now, Ameinu, J-Call in Europe and many others. Our starting point is Israel’s right to exist safely and our commitment to Israel retaining both a Jewish and democratic identity.
The J-Link Mission Statement was written by an impressive group of former ambassadors, political science professors and community leaders, among them Jon Allen, Canada’s former ambassador to Israel; Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to South Africa and one-time Director General of Israel’s foreign ministry, and representatives from Canada, the U.S., Europe, South Africa, Latin America, and Australia.
J-Link is intended to be a communication network that improves understanding among groups with shared values worldwide and motivates them for action. Our goal is to support and enhance democratic voices, not to compete with the wonderful work already being done. Through our global connections, we learn new perspectives and share creative approaches.
To date, our focus has been on the critical issue of the proposed unilateral annexation and its consequences for Israel’s future. What if the unintended consequences of Israel’s proposal are a choice between remaining a democratic or a Jewish state? This is a dilemma we want to avoid.
Said Allen, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Israel from 2006 to 2010: “I’m hopeful that coalition partners Benny Gantz and Gabi Ashkenazi, both former Chiefs of Defence Staff, and other IDF generals and senior officials currently serving in the Shin Bet and Mossad, will make their voices known and signal their opposition to an annexation plan that could put Israel’s security in jeopardy and seriously threaten the country’s democratic character.”
Liel shared the hope that concerns being jointly raised are in Israel’s interest:
“I have been fighting against the West Bank occupation almost from the day I ended my government service. It was a frustrating uphill battle,” Liel said. “The contemporary battle against the planned unilateral annexation is a different matter. We are not alone anymore. I feel that the majority of Jews living outside Israel are extremely worried about this mistaken idea.”
In a statement to the CJR, J-Link said it “share(s) a love of Israel and a commitment to democracy, human rights, religious pluralism, and a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. We believe in the values enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence, according to which the State of Israel, as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people, ensures ‘complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.’
“We are greatly concerned by initiatives such as the Nation-State Law and policies of unilateral annexation that will defeat the prospect of a two-state solution. J-Link aspires to work with our respective local Jewish communities, our national governments, and international organizations to advocate for our values and vision for Israel.”
Jon Allen is a Senior Fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and former Canadian Ambassador to Israel. He participated in writing the J-Link Mission Statement.
Alon Liel is the former Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economy and Planning, and former ambassador of Israel to South Africa. He is the founding coordinator of J-Link.
Dr. Barbara Landau is a board member and chair of the Shared Society Committee of JSpaceCanada and the Canadian representative on the J-Link Coordinating Committee.