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June 5, 2014, New York, NY – In response to the formation of a Palestinian "unity government," Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) President Rabbi Rick Jacobs, issued the following statement:
"If the achievement of a real – enforceable, fair, lasting – peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians were not an existential question for Israel, this would be an understandable time for American Jews and other lovers of Israel to throw up our hands and walk away from the peace process. Perhaps that is why the Psalmist teaches us to "seek peace and pursue it," calling on us to not give up on seeking peace even in those moments when it is beyond our ability to see.
This week's formalization of a Palestinian "unity government" is a particularly disheartening development. It is simply impossible to see a government that includes Hamas, which remains committed to Israel's destruction, as a partner for peace. There should be no illusions about Hamas' nature; it remains a terrorist organization not a government.
This decision by the Palestinians comes on the heels of the collapse of the admirable and dogged effort by Secretary of State John Kerry to bring Israel and the Palestinians to the negotiating table.
This much is clear: no one who loves Israel, or cares about the Palestinian people, or both, can afford to close doors right now. However daunting, this must be a moment when all parties stop taking unilateral actions – such as the creation of a "unity government" – that make the achievement of an agreement less, rather than more, possible.
This is also true for the Israeli government, who reacted to the Palestinian "unity government" by announcing additional settlements in the West Bank. Such construction is precisely the type of action that impedes the possibility of progress. And on a tactical level, it makes it that much more difficult to build support for Israel at a time when efforts to isolate her are increasing internationally.
Israel, the U.S., and the international community must be prepared to respond when actions from the new "unity government" endanger Israel or its citizens. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was correct to say that he holds President Mahmud Abbas responsible for any rocket fire that comes from Gaza into Israel. That is the logical result of a "unity government" under President Abbas' leadership. But the response to such actions should not be the erection of unnecessary hurdles on the arduous, and often hard to discern, path to a potential peace agreement."