Monday, December 31, 2007

Gidon D. Remba Bio

Doni Remba is Executive Director and President of the Jewish Alliance for Change (JAFC)(,) a nonprofit organization which works to educate and mobilize American Jews and the American public to support a progressive domestic and foreign policy agenda.  He also serves as co-director of the Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice in Israel: A Project of Rabbis for Human Rights-North America & JAFC.

During 2008, Mr. Remba and JAFC worked to build American Jewish support for then-Senator Obama's candidacy during the presidential election by co-founding Jews for Obama, and editing its e-newsletter and website, and, among other things, producing the popular web video Israelis For Obama, and the TV ad and web video series Ain't Funny, which featured Carl Reiner, Danny DeVito, Jerry Stiller, Valerie Harper, and other iconic comedians. More recently, JAFC sponsored a benefit concert and political event in support of marriage equality legislation in New York and New Jersey; the concert, called "Broadway for a New America," featured over 30 stars from Broadway, film, TV, music and comedy, and drew an audience of 800 people in New York City.

JAFC sponsors the Campaign for Bedouin-Jewish Justice in Israel together with Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, and co-sponsored an advocacy campaign with J Street ( in support of President Obama’s bold effort to promote peace and security for Israel, defending President Obama against the new wave of smears and misinformation. JAFC also combats myths about President Obama's Middle East peace efforts at Obama Mideast Myths and Facts.

Mr. Remba has also served as Executive Director of Ameinu, the U.S. affiliate of the World Labor Zionist Organization, and co-founded and for six years was President of Americans for Peace Now’s Chicago Region. He has spent over two decades in the for-profit sector as an award-winning marketing strategist and business development manager with several Fortune 100 corporations and entrepreneurial high technology companies.

He served as Senior Foreign Press Translator and Editor in the Israel Prime Minister’s Office, from Egyptian President Sadat’s historic 1977 Jerusalem visit until the signing of the Camp David Peace Accords in 1978. He translated for the world press the public speeches and statements of Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres, and other Israeli leaders, helping them develop Israel's media/communications strategy during the peace negotiations; he co-translated President Sadat’s historic Knesset speech into English for the world press.

Mr. Remba's commentaries on Israel, the Middle East and Jewish affairs have appeared widely in the Jewish and general press, including the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Chicago Sun Times, the Nation, Ha’aretz, the Forward, the Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), Jerusalem Report, Tikkun, Israel Horizons, the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, Chicago Jewish News, JUF News, and the Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh, where he wrote a monthly column on Israel during recent years.

Mr. Remba received his B.A. with high honors in philosophy, Jewish philosophy and Middle East studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and has completed his Ph.D. coursework in political philosophy at the University of Chicago. He lives with his wife and 10-year old daughter in the New York area, having relocated from Chicago.

For a List of My Publications click here.
For Press Clips about my work from 2008 - 2009 click here
For Press Clips about my work from 2007 click here

Israel, Settlements and the "P" Word

Israel, Settlements and the “P” Word


Gidon D. Remba
January 15, 2008

As Bush began his eight-day visit last week to Israel, the West Bank and allied Arab states, the rhetorical fireworks heralded his arrival. In advance of his landing at Ben Gurion airport, Bush assured Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that "I believe the time is ripe. There will be a comprehensive [Israeli-Palestinian] peace signed by the end of this year."

In his joint press conference with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Bush bluntly reminded his listeners that Israeli settlement "outposts, yes, they ought to go. Look, I mean, we've been talking about it for four years. The agreement was, get rid of outposts, illegal outposts, and they ought to go." In the days before his departure, Bush told Reuters in an interview at the White House: "I will talk about Israeli settlement expansion, about how that is, that can be, you know, an impediment to success," and "The unauthorized outposts for example need to be dismantled, like the Israelis said they would do."

Ha'aretz reported that "Olmert said that the president asked for his commitment to an end to the confiscation of land in the West Bank, and end to the construction of new settlements, and the evacuation of illegal outposts." Olmert admitted in an interview before Bush's Israel touchdown that "Every year all the settlements in all the territories [of the West Bank] continue to grow. There is a certain contradiction in this between what we're actually seeing and what we ourselves promised. We have obligations related to settlements and we will honor them." Ha'aretz told it like it is in a lead editorial titled "Bush, Accessory After the Facts," confronting us with the reality that the so-called "outposts" are settlements: "With its own hands, Israel has been rendering the two-state solution irrelevant, while declaring to all and sundry that this is the only possible solution."

Olmert recently admitted to the Jerusalem Post that Israel needs to internalize that even its supportive friends on the international stage conceive of the country's future on the basis of the 1967 borders and with Jerusalem divided. Realistic Dove blogger Dan Fleshler observed that "The idea that Jerusalem was the beginning and end of Zionism, that Israel could not exist without having full sovereignty over the entire city emerged only after 1967 and the growth of a religious fanaticism and aggressive nationalism that had more in common with the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood than the founding fathers of Zionism. And so, guarding the holy sites has become a nightmare and Jerusalem itself has become a dangerous flashpoint. The insanity of a few religious fanatics—Jewish, Muslim or Christian—has the potential of transforming a local conflict into a religious war with incalculable consequences."

A skeptical Yossi Alpher wrote that "Bush is not coming to make a serious effort to advance a substantive peace process. This visit, like Bush's Israeli-Palestinian peace process in general, looks to be all hype and superficiality." Alpher remains unimpressed by Bush's rhetorical fireworks: "There is one thing Bush is apparently not coming to do. He will not put heavy pressure on Olmert, publicly or in private, to start carrying out his roadmap Phase I obligations and energetically remove outposts." Former Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh (Labor) told Dan Fleshler last year that "he believed U.S. pressure on Israel was justified when Israel was not living up to its obligations to the U.S. ...Israelis would support or at least not object too strongly if the U.S. prodded Israel to keep the promises made in the road map."

At Camp David I in 1978, President Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, had warned Prime Minister Menachem Begin that if he refused to relinquish the Sinai settlements, it would be "difficult for him to support Israel's requests for political, economic and military support." Begin relented and the Camp David Peace Accords were signed.

But Carter applied significant pressure on both sides to bring them both to their common goal. When Sadat threatened to leave Camp David in exasperation over the summit's prolonged failure to close the gaps, Carter pointedly told him that if he left, it would be the end of his relationship with the United States and the end of the peace process. Sadat, understanding the score, stayed until agreement was reached.

Republican Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and President Gerald Ford had done much the same just a few years before during Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's first term of office, using a "reassessment" of US military deliveries to Israel to encourage him to agree to the Egyptian-Israeli disengagement agreement after the Yom Kippur War.

In the early nineties, President George H. W. Bush held up billions of dollars in loan guarantees to Israel when Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir refused to freeze settlement construction in the West Bank. Shamir's clash with the U.S. over settlements turned many Israelis to favor Rabin in the next election, leading to his victory, enabling Rabin's pursuit of peace with the Palestinians under the Oslo Accords.

Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, a Democrat, agrees with Bush that "once momentum is generated it could even lead to peace this year.” But he cautions that “Only the US can do it; and that demands action from the president, not just more words." Today, one still hears many American Jews and their leaders talk as if U.S. pressure on the Israeli government, not only on the Palestinian and Arab leadership, is a cardinal sin. In fact, it’s a necessary ingredient for making a secure and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace. It is not in Israel’s best interests for us to continue to pretend otherwise.

Gidon D. Remba is National Executive Director of Ameinu: Liberal Values, Progressive Israel. His commentary is available at

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What Bush and Olmert Could Learn from Begin and Sadat, by Gidon D. Remba

What Bush and Olmert Could Learn from Begin and Sadat

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, December 20, 2007


Gidon D. Remba

As the Annapolis Arab-Israeli peace summit unfolded last month, many failed to notice that it fell just days after the 30th anniversary of the dramatic event which launched the very first Arab-Israeli peace effort: the visit to Jerusalem of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Thirty years ago, I stood in the Knesset in Jerusalem, charged by the Government of Israel with translating the historic speech of President Sadat, and the responses of Israeli leaders Menachem Begin, Moshe Dayan, Ezer Weizman and Shimon Peres, for the world press. What lessons does the first successful peace initiative between Arabs and Israelis hold for President Bush and Prime Minister Olmert to guide them through the minefields of today's battle for peace between Israel and the Palestinians? (There are lessons too for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, but that would take another piece.)

Sadat is widely thought to have been the main initiator of the breakthrough Egyptian-Israeli peace talks. To be sure, Sadat was a remarkably courageous leader, whose actions were unprecedented. A tragic hero, he was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood for making peace with Israel. But by conferring on Sadat more credit than he deserved, we miss the pivotal role played by Israeli leaders—particularly Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan—which made Sadat's bold move possible.

Before Sadat issued his public offer to talk peace with Israel in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Begin sent messages to Sadat through a variety of secret channels via President Carter and Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu, indicating that Israel was prepared to make major territorial concessions in return for a full peace treaty, and inviting Sadat to meet Begin. Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan traveled incognito to Morocco to meet Sadat's deputy prime minister, Hasan Tuhami. Through his meeting with Tuhami, Dayan led Sadat to believe that Israel would agree to a complete withdrawal from the Sinai in exchange for full peace. Late in life, Begin acknowledged this in an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharanot. Begin further acknowledged that he made an explicit commitment to withdraw from the entire Sinai Peninsula during Sadat's Jerusalem visit.

Israel took the initiative to build the trust and confidence which enabled Sadat to take the extraordinary risks that he did, breaking through the Arab wall of enmity which had surrounded the Jewish state for the previous three decades since its birth. By the same token, a far-reaching Israeli peace initiative is needed today, offering Israel's Palestinian partners, President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the tools they need to build their power base and make significant concessions on issues of greatest concern to Israel: providing security against terrorism and reaching an agreed resolution to the refugee issue.

Since the dawn of the Arab-Israeli peace process three decades ago, Israeli construction of settlements in the West Bank has been a fractious bone of contention between the Arabs, Israel and the United States. Had Begin persisted in his refusal to temporarily freeze construction, ignoring the appeals of his Foreign Minister, Moshe Dayan, and his Defense Minister, Ezer Weizman, the first Camp David summit might well have ended in failure. If Israel and the Palestinians reach a final status accord marking the final borders between a Palestinian state and Israel, incorporating an agreed swath of settlements near the 1967 line, with equal land swaps, the Jewish state will be free to build settlements, both new and existing. No one could object that Jews were illegally settling in "occupied territory" or obstructing a two-state solution to the conflict. They would be building within the internationally recognized final boundaries of Israel--boundaries accepted not only by the world, but by the Palestinians and all Arab states.

A cycle of initial hope and prolonged despair is common to both the peace processes of the seventies and the period from Oslo to Annapolis. Following Sadat's Jerusalem visit, the early optimism for reaching an Egyptian-Israeli accommodation was dashed by a stalemate in the negotiations which lasted the better part of a year. The PLO, fearing that Sadat was planning a separate peace and betraying Palestinian aspirations, escalated its violence, perpetrating some of its most deadly terrorist attacks.

The collapse of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks at Camp David II and the eruption of the Second Intifada, coupled with continued Israeli expansion of settlements, dashed hopes on both sides for realizing a secure and peaceful two-state solution, undermining mutual trust. Then, as now, Israel's military leaders believed that the failure to fulfill the hope of peace could lead to renewed war. As deadlock set in, Defense Minister Weizman prepared the Israeli army for a possible conflagration with Egypt, much as his contemporary counterparts have warned of a third intifada, or a regional war with Syria, Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

The cycle of despair and hope was broken thirty years ago. It can be broken again now. The United States has succeeded in helping Israel and its Arab neighbors overcome some of the highest hurdles to peace by judiciously applying carefully calibrated diplomatic pressure on both sides at key points during a peace effort. It's time to give up myths about the "taboo" of American diplomatic heat.

In reality, the Israeli government, a coalition of parties and factions within parties, is often a house divided against itself. U.S. prodding can provide an Israeli leader the political cover he needs to align with and empower the more moderate factions in his own party and in his government. Arab decision-making has been similarly influenced.

The history of several past successful Mideast peace efforts, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, suggests that a vital role was played by American leaders who were prepared to hold Israeli and Arab leaders' feet to the fire when it most mattered, a tale worth revisiting in a future column. Both sides need a crash course in tough love to spur them across the threshold of peace.

Gidon D. Remba is National Executive Director of Ameinu: Liberal Values, Progressive Israel. His commentary is available at