By Dikla Tuchman, Jewish Sound Correspondent
“A good divorce is better sometimes than trying to share the same house,” Stanley Wulf told his audience Sunday’s presentation on behalf of J Street’s nationwide “2 Campaign” initiative. Wulf spoke at the Stroum Jewish Community Center on Mercer Island as part of the town hall-style series, which came to 15 cities in the Western U.S.
“The 2 Campaign’s aim is to continue gathering and mobilizing support for the U.S.-hosted peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine,” according to J Street’s website.
Wulf, a member of the left-leaning Israel advocacy organization’s National Advisory Council, has lived in Berkeley since 1989 and has served as both president and treasurer of his modern Orthodox synagogue. He is an Ob-Gyn and is currently chief medical officer of a Bay Area medical technology company.
Wulf’s presentation outlined four major areas for peace through a two-state solution: Borders, security, refugees and Jerusalem.
Like many other “two-state solution” discussions, Wulf outlined the demographic need for a solution as soon as possible. “If we use the 6.1 million figure for Palestinian population, from river to the sea, there are just as many Palestinians as Israelis,” he said. “That means that in the near future, or even now some claim, that with a Palestinian majority what are the consequences?”
He argued that Israel therefore has two options: That when the Palestinian population overtakes the Jewish population, a minority will rule over that majority, or it will mean the end of Israel as a democracy. Thus, argues Wulf, the only solution is agreement on a two-state solution once and for all.
“If you want a democracy, then Israel ceases being Jewish,” Wulf said. “And that is the bottom line that keeps me up at night.”
Wulf dissected and explained how each of the four points must be agreed upon before a peaceable division of land can occur, closing out his discussion with the difficult point of recognition.
“There is no negotiation on each person’s pain,” he said.
Recognizing that each side has equal claim and equal pain is seen as one of the most difficult hurdles to clear, Wulf said. The parties must agree to disagree on recognition and move past that as a point of contention within the negotiations. Without setting that aside, a negotiation cannot happen. Martin Indyk, the U.S. envoy to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, worked late into the night with both parties on the day of Wulf’s presentation to keep the talks from breaking down.
“There is no trust between Netanyahu and Abbas,” Wulf said, referring to the Israeli and Palestinian prime ministers, respectively. “But going through with this agreement, which is possible, is trust building — and actually answers some of the recognition issues.”
He pointed to the example of dividing Jerusalem.
“We’re working on the assumption here that we want a peace agreement,” he said. “It won’t change our lives one bit. That favorite restaurant you have in Jerusalem? It’ll still be in Israel.”
Wulf closed his discussion by speaking specifically to Netanyahu’s relatively new insistence that the Palestinians must acknowledge and agree that Israel is a Jewish State. Seen as one of the catalysts for the recent backslide in peace negotiations, Netanyahu’s demand has been addressed by political groups across the spectrum, including J Street. “J Street’s position — and my position — is that this issue is not a phrase,” Wulf said. “It isn’t ‘Jewish State’ that’s being argued here. There’s a paragraph that would make it work.”
That single paragraph would ask the Palestinians to acknowledge, agree and stand by the declaration that Israel is the national homeland of the Jewish people.
“That formulation,” Wulf said, “has been the most acceptable that we’ve understood right now.”
Using such wording, he said, would not disenfranchise Israel’s 20 percent Arab population and respect equal rights for all minorities living in Israel. That, Wulf said, is important because it could protect Jews who live in places like the West Bank who may want to stay after the two states are created.
“That could be a formula that we could come together on,” Wulf said, acknowledging that the American audience to whom he was speaking made easier a convincing argument that such a formula could jumpstart a successful negotiation.
Wulf reiterated that the current leaders who are attempting to broker this deal, such as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, should not squander this opportunity and work as hard as they can to push forward out of the current stalemate.