A Question of Principle

by Rabbi Philip Lefkowitz

Five years ago I received a written response from the then Illinois’ Junior Senator regarding my letter to him concerning the vital issue of Palestinian terrorist acts rained upon the civilian population of Israel. Then Senator Obama wrote that he was in full support of S2370, The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006, which eventually was signed into law by the President. The record shows that then Senator Bidden, now our Vice-President, also supported this legislation.

The law reflects the concerns of the United States regarding the severe obstacle continued terrorism against Israel plays in forestalling any possible peace negotiation. It establishes parameters regarding this issue that must be met as well as steps the United States will take if those parameters are ignored. Five years later none of those parameters have been met and we have witnessed the recent “marriage” of Hamas and Fatah, yet the President felt the need to place new demands upon Israel in his recent speech regarding Freedom in the Middle East.

Let me review some of the points of this ant-terrorist legislation.

…it shall be U.S. policy to: (1) support a peaceful, two-state solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in accordance with the Performance-Based Roadmap to a Permanent Two-State Solution to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Roadmap), and oppose those organizations, individuals, and countries that support terrorism and violently reject such two-state solution; (2) promote democracy and the cessation of terrorism and incitement in institutions and territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA); and (3) urge members of the international community to avoid contact with and refrain from financially supporting the terrorist organization Hamas until it agrees to recognize Israel, renounce violence, disarm, and accept prior agreements, including the Roadmap… no PA ministry, agency, or instrumentality is controlled by Hamas unless the Hamas-controlled PA has publicly acknowledged the Jewish state of Israel’s right to exist and is adhering to all previous agreements and understandings with the United States, Israel and the international community, including agreements and understandings pursuant to the Roadmap; and (2) the Hamas-controlled PA has made demonstrable progress toward purging from its security services individuals with ties to terrorism, dismantling all terrorist infrastructure and cooperating with Israel’s security services, halting anti-American and anti-Israel incitement, and ensuring democracy and financial transparency.
Prohibits funds for the State Department from being used by any U.S. officer or employee to negotiate with members or official representatives of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, or any other Palestinian terrorist organization (except in emergency or humanitarian situations) until such organization: (1) recognizes Israel’s right to exist; (2) renounces terrorism; (3) dismantles the terrorist infrastructure; and (4) recognizes all previous agreements and understandings between Israel and the PA.

I thought the then Senator’s support of the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act was his affirmation of core principles by which the United States would address the Israel-Palestinian conflict. How else could one understand his support of this legislation? And yet today, while calling for measures aimed at democratization of Arab countries, in his recent Freedom in the Middle East speech, he ignores his own principled support of just such demands of the Palestinians placing upon Israel the new demand of returning to its 1967 boarders.

One is left with the glaring and fundamental question: Can one depend upon our President to stand by any principled position he takes? Is his foreign policy predicated solely upon pragmatism as he understands events on the ground or is there some overarching direction that governs his decisions? This is a real problem for any nation attempting to deal with the United States, especially for the State of Israel, which, sadly, has but one ally in dealing with its ever more difficult and hostile neighborhood.

Is it no wonder that Prime Minister Netanyahu literally took the President to the woodshed? How is Israel to face the many issues it must deal with when its “staunchest ally”, the United States, vacillates on stated principles regarding terrorism?

I urge all Americans who are committed to freedom and democracy, to write our President reminding him of his support of The Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 and asking him to reaffirm his principled commitment to this important law.