Adam Schleifer is running for Congress in New York’s 17th District.
In response to the First One Through article posted on June 5 about the Israel positions of the various Democrats competing for Nita Lowey’s seat, Schleifer’s team updated the candidate’s website with a section called “Strong, Sustainable US-Israel Relationship.” The section contained over 1,000 words and covered Schleifer’s Jewish background, the benefits to America from its relationship with Israel, thoughts about peace in the region and analysis of how best to deal with Iran and its threat to the region.
Schleifer also spoke with me directly about his positions on Israel which are shared in a condensed, summarized fashion below.
First One Through: Question on Jerusalem: As recently as 2008, the Democratic platform stated “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.” The statement was contested at the Democratic convention floor of 2012 but approved. In 2016, President Obama let a United Nations Security Council resolution pass which declared that Israel’s control of the eastern half of Jerusalem was “illegal.” However, President Trump later recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moved the US embassy there. What is your position about the city? Would you move the US embassy out of Jerusalem or change the recognition of the city?
Adam Schleifer: Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. While I am not the president, I will take no action to undue the recognition of Jerusalem nor would I move the US embassy from the city.
FOT: Borders: President George W Bush wrote a letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004 that stated “it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949.” Virtually identical language was used in the official Democratic platform of 2008 only to be removed under Obama’s presidential tenure. For his part, Trump stated that “the establishment of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank is not per se inconsistent with international law.” What do you think should be the basis for the borders and how does it impact your view of Israelis living east of the Green Line?
AS: I will not dictate or opine where the borders should be. The goal of America should be to get two parties [Israel and the Palestinians] to start negotiating with each other. They need to figure out out a number of details about how to exchange various parcels of land, and how to accommodate the demographic realities of various areas versus the legal claims to the same, including how to get the disconnected occupied territories to become connected by a transit route.
Right now we don’t have good parties in the mix. Arafat walked away from a historic opportunity in 2000 (I was in DC watching with sadness as the deal unraveled) and Hamas is terrible and not a partner for peace. I won’t get into whether I think Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is a good guy or not; that’s not our role. We just need to be constructive in getting the parties talking.
The reality is that under international law most legal opinions conclude that the territories are “occupied” in violation of that law, whatever the historical, moral and practical realities of the situation. It’s also true that the Israeli government’s actions of building settlements in far out places and areas that are almost certain to conflict with an orderly peace process and is a recipe for difficulty both for the Palestinians and Israel to ultimately dismantle.
FOT: Palestinian State: The UN Declaration of Human Rights states that all people should have self-determination, however, the UN declared that Palestinians also have a unique “inalienable right” to sovereignty, a sentiment that no other people in the world have. Do you believe that Palestinians have such inalienable right to have their own country, or just citizenship in some country, whether their own, Israel, Jordan or Egypt?
AS: That is not a useful question. The Palestinians operate and view themselves as having a unique culture and desire an independent state. The reality is that that aspiration will need to be accommodated as a pragmatic matter for a sustainable solution. Many other people similarly have aspirations for statehood, though, and one particularly legitimate additional example in the middle east appears to be the Kurds, who we have failed to stand by after they stood by us, and we should work to see them at least have autonomous regions permitting self-rule and determination of some form.
FOT: UNRWA: Refugees from around the world are managed by the UNHCR, taking care of over 60 million people fleeing war-torn areas, forced to resettle, build shelter and schools. Meanwhile, a distinct UNRWA handles grandchildren of Palestinian refugees who have a long-established infrastructure. UNRWA has bloated itself to provide services for people who are not even descendants of refugees and has arbitrarily extended its mandate to run until the establishment of a Palestinian State, rather than getting these descendants resettled. Do you think UNRWA should be dissolved or folded into the UNHCR?
AS: I have no opinion and would need to explore the issue further. It is clear that the UN has a very troubling double standard for all things related to Israel. Consider the UN Human Rights Committee which condemns Israel while ignoring the brutality of Libya, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Sudan.
FOT: USA as Moderator: Do you believe that the US should be the sole mediator of the peace process or should it be part of the “Quartet” of the European Union, UN and Russia? How should the America’s role change in situations of it acting alone or in concert with others?
AS: The United States is now viewed as weak and ineffective on the world stage because of the current president. I am a big believer of multi-lateralism and will take the UN involvement whenever we can get it. It will lead to reigning in regional chaos and injustice.
The current president of the US unduly relies on personal relationships to manage foreign policy, but such approach cannot endure beyond his tenure. We need to map out policies beyond the particular individuals. We are in a situation now where the US has no credibility and to be effective, you have to have credibility.
Being effective also means being honest. When it comes to Israel, America is a strong friend but being a friend doesn’t always mean being a non-critical friend.
We need to include other parties as part of the peace process and be an honest credible moderator to the parties.
FOT: Iran: What do you think of Iran and the Iranian nuclear deal and the withdrawal from it?
AS: The U.S. cannot allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. It is a malignant autocratic regime. We cannot allow such an autocratic regime to arm themselves. We need to drive a hard bargain for a new and better deal.
More so, the U.S. must get the whole world to empower the people of Iran. Through various means, the U.S. should push for hard sanctions to pressure the regime to make real change towards the rule of law.
FOT: Antisemitism: How do you plan on fighting antisemitism?
AS: Antisemitism is a thread that unites extremists around the world. All forms of extremism are inherently dangerous. In France they self-define as left-wing and in Poland and Hungary they self-define as far right. They are united only in antisemitism.
Education is key to fighting the hatred. Holocaust education is critical, as are instituting new laws like the Hate Crime Prevention Act. We need to be creative with actively fighting against all kinds of antisemitic attacks.
It is worth reviewing Schleifer’s prepared AIPAC remarks which are now on his website.
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