Matthew Mainen, Washington Resident Fellow at the Middle East Forum, spoke to Middle East Forum Radio host Gregg Roman on May 13 about Israel's proposed annexation of disputed territories and the controversial election of a new chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Israel's annexation of the Jordan Valley and major settlements blocks in West Bank would come at "a particularly opportune time," according to Mainen, because the world is "on lockdown ... dealing with the coronavirus." Moreover, the political climate in the U.S. is conducive with Trump in the White House and the Democrats unlikely to make Israel a campaign issue ahead of the presidential election in November.
Mainen made the distinction between those who are opposed to Israeli annexation forever versus those who are against annexation at this time. The former group is spearheaded by those who were "involved with the failed peace talks with the Palestinians" in years past, "promoting ideas that are two decades old and have two decades of proven failure."
Proponents of the latter view, expressed in a recent New York Times op-ed by Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes, worry about unintended consequences. In particular, he said, there are "legitimate concerns" that annexation could cause "a major rupture in Israeli politics" by antagonizing the Israeli left and pushing it further into an "anti-Zionist" stance; trigger an intifada that could witness "instability and violence" spreading into Jordan," or alienate an incoming Biden administration if Trump fails to win reelection
Annexation will help "get the Palestinians to realize that their obstructionism has to end."
While noting that there is "healthy debate" within the Middle East Forum about whether annexation will "enhance" or "hurt" Israel's path to victory over the Palestinians, Mainen believes that annexing the major settlement blocs will ultimately help "get the Palestinians to realize that their obstructionism has to end, or they could wake up one day and ... have a lot less land than they wanted."
Mainen also discussed the ascension of the former president of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), Dianne F. Lob, as chair-elect of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Mainen noted that "the vast majority of people involved with the Conference of Presidents [are] very connected to their Judaism and ardent Zionists."
That makes the choice of Lob misguided because, in Mainen's estimation, HIAS has become an organization that "endangers Jews and empowers their enemies." Founded in the late 1800s, HIAS was established to help resettle Russian Jews fleeing pogroms, and later, Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust. Today, however, it advocates resettling Muslim migrants from countries that are "hotbeds of antisemitism" into the U.S. and Europe without proper vetting. In Europe, which has witnessed a high levels of immigration from Muslim countries, "the plurality of incidents of anti-Semitic harassment is coming from people from an Islamic background." Adding to this influx is therefore "putting Jews in danger."
Marilyn Stern is the producer of Middle East Forum Radio.