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The birth of Yachad – the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement

This is a guest post by Hannah Weisfeld

The poll on British Jewish attitudes towards Israel, conducted by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in 2010, revealed that the UK Jewish community is defined by unshakeable commitment to Israel.  90% view it is as the ancestral home of the Jewish people, and 95% have visited at least once.  Remarkably, 22% think it is likely they will live there in the future.

With this context, it is no great surprise that the vision behind Yachad, the UK’s pro-Israel, pro-peace movement, is based on desire to strengthen Israel as the democratic national home of the Jewish people. Yachad aims to galvanise large numbers of British Jews to show members of its own community, Israel, and the world at large, that a majority of supporters of Israel believe that the best way to safeguard Israel’s future is to stand in support of the steps needed to create peace – which means two states for two people. It is clear from demography alone that Israel cannot survive as a Jewish and democratic state if it does not cede control of the occupied Palestinian territories.  A very unpalatable dilemma will be put before all those who believe in the existence of a Jewish state: Israel as a non-Jewish state or Israel with a minority Jewish population ruling over a majority Palestinian population.

There is growing concern amongst Israel’s supporters that time is no longer on her side. The impending vote at the United Nations General Assembly this coming September looks set to bring a Palestinian State into existence – unilaterally. Pre-conditions to negotiations will be a non-issue as there will be no negotiations. What a unilaterally declared state means in reality when there are 500,000 people living within the territory who are citizens of another state, whose government is threatening to annex large chunks of territory, and whose army and border policy are on the ground protecting them, remains to be seen. However, one thing is clear: once the international community declares Israel to be occupying a sovereign nation, it will be impossible to stop escalating calls for sanctions and boycotts. A German company has just pulled out of the new railway between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, which cuts through part of the West Bank. This is just a flavour of what’s to come.

Yachad will not be naïve to the threats Israel faces from terror organisations on its borders and those beyond its borders who wish to defame it.  However if Israel is to survive and thrive it must move beyond an agenda defined by extremists. This is not the position of ‘bleeding heart liberals’ in the Jewish Diaspora. Just today Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’ s most widely circulate paper (excluding Yisrael Hayom, the daily freebie) carried a full page advert, signed by over 80 of Israel’s political, military and intellectual establishment, calling on Israel to urgently recognise a Palestinian State based on 1967 borders. And just over a month ago, the Israeli Peace Initiative was launched, supported by a number of the security elite, calling for the 1967 borders to form the basis of negotiations with no pre-conditions.

Yachad believes that to be a supporter of Israel means to stand in support of the actions that safeguard Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, which must mean the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. There are steps Israel will need to take, some of them hard, to get there, and the time has come for Jewish communities around the world, who are Israel’s greatest friends and allies, to stand in support of policies that safeguard Israel’s future.

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