Among the key issues facing the American Jewish community today, the growing generational divide in perspective and political inclination towards Israel ranks atop many of the rest. Active mainstream Jews are disassociating themselves from the traditional communal organizations, in addition to Israel as a whole, as a result of a number of failures that do not just emanate from a failed peace process.
The failure of our American community to responsibly discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in fact-based, nuanced terms – as well as the absence of a championed consensus for the two-state solution – has led to a number of unfavorable outcomes. While it is true that many Jewish millennials feel little to no affinity to Israel, those who do have a strong sense of Zionism inevitably go down one of the following paths:
- Ignore discussions altogether on the future reconciliation of Israel with the Palestinians and Arab World.
- Assume the basic talking points of mainstream pro-Israel organizations in blaming the opposing side of the conflict.
- Diverge from the above mainstream perspectives and support left-leaning pro-Israel groups that focus on the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
- Reject the organized Jewish world and express discontent through protest or self-removal from the communal atmosphere.
Speak to students on campuses or young professionals in cities around the United States, and you’ll find that the future sways closest towards the last scenario. While right-of-center voices would like to have you believe that young Jews are succumbing to anti-Israel pressure from the left, the reality is that this demographic is far too smart and attuned to the facts on-the-ground to remain silent on the future of Israel and the true fulfillment of Zionism. They study the news, visit the region, listen to their Israeli friends – and come to the same conclusion that two states for two peoples is the only way to ensure Israel’s future as a Jewish, democratic, secure state.
The problem – as diagnosed above – lies in the existing void that disables young people from articulating their support for Israel and the two-state solution, all the while without compromising their Zionism, pragmatism, and often times liberal values. Absent the communal organization that represents these ideals and directly confronts these challenges, young (and old) Zionists are left to affiliate with a wide-range of organizations – while many important and vital in their missions – that unfortunately stay pigeon-holed in a certain position on the pro-Israel “spectrum.” Until now.
Last week, over 75 Jewish young professionals joined Israel Policy Forum in Chicago to engage with our organization’s work in advancing support for a future two-state solution. On that random summer evening, and more recently last night in New York City with a group of nearly 150 individuals, IPF Atid – Israel Policy Forum’s national network of young professional advocates – officially launched to make a statement to our community that a different approach is not only desperately needed and desired, but is here.
Atid translates to “future,” but unlike other young leadership offshoots, the focus of IPF Atid’s future is not on our community or organization’s future donor leadership. Rather, when we envision the future of our community and the State of Israel – one that aspires to attain stability, security, and unity – how can we prepare and empower today’s young professionals, who are already leading in their industries and communities, to advance the realization of such a vision?
The first step in answering this question is to recognize that the two-state solution is ironically what simultaneously unites – and separates – the majority of organizations and their supporters.
Most agree on the idea of two-states, yet differ widely on its priority, as well as the steps and strategies necessary to move forward absent a peace process.
For instance, movements from the liberal left speak of a more immediate withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, often minimizing Israeli security concerns, current demographic realities within the major settlement blocs, and the serious questions surrounding Palestinian political leadership. Meanwhile, pro-Israel advocates from the right-of-center perspective champion the obstacles of peace, including the lack of a Palestinian partner or the security concerns that would accompany a major withdrawal from the West Bank. What these competing rationales both miss are the pragmatic, reality-based advocacy tools to effectively articulate and advance the shared goal of an eventual two-state agreement.
As a result, we at IPF Atid – a growing network of hundreds of young professionals around the United States – aspire to equip our community with the necessary educational and policy-based resources to empower and advance support for a viable, sustainable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We aim to prove the validity and importance of the two-state solution not only as a bipartisan, Zionist ideal, but also as a strategic U.S. foreign policy objective.
IPF is in a prime position to advance such a vision through our organization’s present policy partners. The Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) provide credible, fact-based policies and analysis that lay out the short-term options to enhance Israeli security and future conditions for an agreement. The Center for A New American Security (CNAS) has translated security proposals from within the negotiating room into an in-depth study on the long-term security scenarios accompanying a two-state arrangement. And finally, the cooperation between IPF and the Economic Cooperation Foundation (ECF) allows anyone to interact with digital maps of history’s previous land-swaps offers and the most recent borders.
In a time in which facts lose ground to emotional pleas and nuanced discourse takes the back-seat to 140-character tweets, our task will certainly not be easy. As some move further to the outer flank of the left and join the protesting noise-makers, and others drift further to the right in calling for preposterous measures against Israel’s Arab neighbors, we believe a moderate majority exists and will not remain silent for much longer. With your ideas, energy, and commitment – I hope you will join us.