On Tuesday, President Trump released the details of his and Jared Kushner’s plan for a settlement of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. As in most anything this president does, it has been met with very strong and polarized reactions ranging from strong support to “hair on fire” condemnations. As you might be learning about me, I try to avoid instant reactions especially on issues of the Middle East, since cause and effect can be notoriously difficult to untangle there, because we as Americans don’t have enough direct experience in the matter, and because the gap between ideals and realpolitik there is so wide there on all sides.
Instead of focusing on my own reactions, I want to share some articles for you to read, inform yourselves, and come to your own informed conclusions. To that end:
- Here is the full text of the actual plan: TRUMP PEACE PLAN
- Here is a short statement by URJ President Rabbi Rick Jacobs on the plan and Netanyahu’s announced plan to unilaterally annex territories.
- Here is a very critical article from POLITICO written by three Israelis with impressive resumes: Ami Ayalon (former director of Shin Bet, Israel’s top security agency), Gilead Sher (former Chief of Staff or Ehud Barak and senior peace negotiator) and Orni Petruschka (an Israeli high-tech entrepreneur): Trump’s Peace Plan Is Immoral, Impractical — and Could Blow Up the Middle East
- David Ignatius wrote this article for the Washington Post, that captures some key aspects of what this deal reflects about realpolitik in the region: The Trump peace plan is a squeeze play against the Palestinians. It might work.
- Here is an article from THE NATIONAL REVIEW that is supportive of the president’s approach: The Israeli–Palestinian Peace Plan Is a Much-Needed Dose of Reality
- Here is a thoughtful article from The Atlantic, by Shadi Hamid about the emotional cost of the plan for Palestinians: The Israeli-Palestinian Dispute Is Only Partly About Land
- Here is a very critical article of American Policy for decades by Nathan Thrall that places Trump’s plan in a context of American policy: Trump’s Middle East Peace Plan Exposes the Ugly Truth
I spent about three hours writing some thoughts on this proposal, but the more I wrote, I’ve decided not to share those, and let the articles be enough for now. I will only say that I believe in the rightness of self-determination, and the rightness of peace and the necessity of justice. Which road might actually take us in this conflict – where those in power rely on the perpetuation of conflict to remain in power and both side are convinced justice is on their side – that is a question for prophets, not rabbis. All we can do is be among the disciples of Aaron, seeking peace and pursuing peace as best we can.
Judaism and The Environment
January 31 – February 1, 2020
In anticipation of Tu B’Shvat
Join Temple Sinai and Rabbi Cohen as we celebrate Shabbat together and reflect and learn Judaism’s teaching about the environment, and our responsibilities to it.
- KABBALAT SHABBAT, Jan 31, 6:30 pm – Join us for a song-filled service focused on the environment with Rabbi Cohen giving the d’var (sermon).
- SHABBAT DINNER, Jan 31, 7:45 pm – After services, join us for Shabbat Dinner with Shabbat table songs and more teaching from Rabbi Cohen.
- SHABBAT MORNING SERVICES (Shacharit) Feb 1, 9:30-10:30 – A spiritual chanted morning service with all the greatest ‘hits’ of Shabbat morning.
- JUDAISM AND THE ENVIRONMENT. Feb 1, 10:30-Noon – Judaism is filled with deep and profound messages about our relationship to the environment; our shared home. In place of our usual Torah Study, we will explore with Rabbi Cohen many of those sources from our tradition, drawing on Rabbi Cohen’s extensive work with the Arava Institute in Israel. Bagels and donuts provided!
- HAVDALAH AND DUAL NARRATIVE APPROACH TO CONFLICT. Feb 1 5-7 pm – The Balfour Declaration & Resolution 242: A Dual Narrative Approach. Resolution 242 and the Balfour Declaration are two seminal documents from the Arab-Israeli Conflict. In a conflict that seems overwhelming to understand these two documents provide a way to understand both sides when viewed through the Dual Narrative approach; or as Hillel said (Mishna Avot 2:4), “Do not judge another until you are in his place.”
RABBI MICHAEL COHEN graduated, with a B.A. in History, from the University of Vermont, and in 1990, he was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and become the first full-time rabbi of the Israel Congregation in Manchester Center, Vermont. Since 2000, he has divided his time between Vermont and Kibbutz Ketura, Israel, and has written extensively about the environment and the Middle East peace process in North American and Middle Eastern publications and is the author of Einstein’s Rabbi: A Tale of Science and the Soul. Rabbi Michael is a faculty member at Bennington’s Center for the Advancement of Public Action..
THE ARAVA INSTITUTE is an environmental and academic institution in the Middle East, dedicated to preparing future leaders from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, and around the world to cooperatively solve the regional and global challenges of our time. The Institute advances cross-border environmental cooperation and cross-border environmental discourse, regardless of political conflict, in the Middle East.