The Israel Policy Forum (IPF) is a New York-based Jewish organization that was founded in 1993, in the wake of the Oslo Accords and at the behest of Israel’s Labor-Meretz coalition government. As Kenneth Levin notes in The Oslo Syndrome, the group’s first executive director was Jonathan Jacoby, “who had earlier in his career signed a New York Times ad accusing Israel of ‘state terrorism.’”
According to IPF, a two-state solution—where “an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip exist[s] peacefully alongside Israel”—is “an imperative” prerequisite for the establishment of a “more secure, prosperous and stable” Middle East. Without such a solution, says IPF, the region will languish in “a state of permanent war” while Israel suffers “the loss of [its] Jewish identity.”
Maintaining that “the United States is the only credible and effective mediator capable of helping the parties reach a solution that will safeguard Israel’s security and future as a Jewish and democratic state,” IPF contends that the achievement of a two-state agreement is wholly dependent upon “a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.” “[W]ithout U.S. leadership at the highest level,” IPF explains, “Arabs and Israelis will not make the compromises needed to secure agreements.” To nurture America’s ties to Israel, IPF advocates continued U.S. military aid to the Jewish state, “to ensure it can withstand any threats to its security.” But by the same token, adds IPF, “it is clear that there is no military solution to the conflicts between Israel and its Arab neighbors, and that long-term, sustainable peace and security can only be achieved through peace agreements.”
To promote the foregoing objectives, IPF conducts targeted advocacy meetings in Washington; holds educational briefings for leaders across the United States; dispatches delegations to put American leaders in contact with their counterparts in Israel and the Palestinian Territories; produces commentary and policy analysis designed to influence both legislators and the general public; and sponsors educational programs whose purpose is to produce a cadre of new advocates for a two-state solution.
IPF maintains that in order for the United States to be effective as a mediator, it must play the role of an “honest broker” that is perceived to be “fair” by “both Israelis and Arabs.” Toward that end, IPF has consistently urged the U.S. government to press Israel into making ever-greater concessions to Palestinian militants—confident that such a course of action would persuade them to abandon the tactics of terrorism.
In November 2005, for instance, IPF leaders met in Washington, DC with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and exhorted her to take “aggressive” action in brokering an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. After the meeting, IPF sent Rice a policy paper advising that the U.S. should “immediately and vigorously” promote “an Israeli freeze on extending existing settlements, including roads and other associated infrastructure, and [the] removal of unauthorized settlement outposts.” Such a measure, said IPF, “would help strengthen” the political clout of the supposedly moderate Palestinian Authority “among the various Palestinian factions, including Hamas.”
IPF’s then-president, Seymour Reich, who participated in the meeting with Rice, said afterward: “I have no doubt that we bolstered the Secretary of State’s instinct and strengthened her opinion that aggressive American involvement was needed to achieve practical results.” And indeed, Reich was correct. Influenced by IPF’s recommendations, the U.S. subsequently applied intense pressure on Israel to sign a new deal filled with such concessions as: allowing incoming traffic at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza to be monitored not by Israelis, but by Egyptians on the one side and Palestinians on the other; permitting Palestinians to build a seaport in Gaza; and increasing by more than tenfold the daily limits on truck traffic through the Karni crossing between Gaza and Israel. “The [inevitable] result is easy to see,” said Binyamin Netanyahu. “Kassam rockets and mortars will be transported through Judea and Samaria to be launched at Israel.” (Netanyahu’s prediction would prove to be accurate.)
In 2008, IPF lauded the newly formed J Street as a group whose objectives represented a refreshing alternative to the “Arab and/or Palestinian-bashing” of “their pro-status quo, pro-occupation counterparts.”