Diaspora Peacemakers? The Role of American Jews in the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

By Dov Waxman
Submitted to Session P4623 (Reproduction of Meaning in the Diaspora, 2016 Annual Meeting
Intl Rltns/Aff
Peace Studies;
Amidst growing despair over the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace, some hold out the hope that Diaspora Jews will collectively mobilize and prod, if not pressure, the Israeli government to make peace with the Palestinians. Is this hope realistic? Can Jews in the Diaspora become a force for peace between Israel and the Palestinians? In this paper, I try to answer this question by focusing on American Jews, by far the largest, wealthiest, and most important Jewish community in the Diaspora. I begin by examining American Jewish public opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Drawing upon extensive survey data, I argue that American Jews are not as ‘dovish’ in their views about the conflict as some might hope, and that there are significant divisions of opinion among them that hamper their ability to collectively mobilize. I then consider other factors that militate against American Jewish influence or pressure upon Israel to make peace. I argue that although many American Jews are becoming increasingly willing to press Israeli governments to make peace with the Palestinians, mainstream American Jewish organizations are still reluctant to challenge Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and Israeli governments remain unwilling to grant Diaspora Jews a voice in Israeli policymaking, especially on matters on national security. As such, despite widespread frustration with the Israeli government’s conduct of the peace process with the Palestinians, American Jews are unlikely to influence them to change course and adopt a more conciliatory policy toward the Palestinians.