William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, spoke with Arutz Sheva - Israel National News about his organization’s upcoming delegation to Israel.
“The conference, for the 49th year, is coming to Israel for our national leadership mission. The mission this year will have around 50 or 60 American Jewish leaders, who will be very much engaged with the post-October 7th Israel. This gives special meaning and significance for this time - usually, we're in a hotel ballroom hearing from one politician or government official after another, but this year we're going to be very much in the field,” he says about the delegation.
Daroff explains the goals for this year’s mission: “We’re here to embrace the survivors and to bear witness, and to express the concern and the love of the American Jewish people for the people of Israel. Israelis need to understand that October 7th was a tragedy for Jews around the world.”
He explains why that is: “The trauma is tremendous, here in Israel and among world Jewry. In America, we felt the double blows of seeing what happened here on October 7th and the spike in antisemitism. We were also moved by the support, the hug, the emotions, that came from the White House to Israel -that was incredibly important and something that I think helped Israel recover from the first days of this tragedy.”
He addressed the recent tensions between Washington and Jerusalem: “I think that American support for Israel is unprecedented, in the international community, the United Nations, and other international bodies. To support Israel in international forums, Israel needs to move to ensure humanitarian aid for civilians who are in Gaza. A five-month-old baby shouldn't starve because of the outrageous and barbaric actions of the Hamas terrorists under whom that baby lives. As far as prosecuting the war, turning Gaza into a parking lot would not help satisfy those goals.”
Regarding UNRWA, he commented: “I salute President Biden for suspending the aid to UNRWA. Given the climate in the international community and the outcry of concern for civilians in Gaza, the fact that the president was able to look at this information and see what many of us have known for a long time is important, and the fact that a dozen or so other Western countries have come behind the United States to support the suspension of aid to UNRWA speaks to the seriousness with which these issues are being taken.”
He addressed the pressures on Israel to negotiate a prisoner exchange agreement: “My sense is that the United States recognizes that this is a decision for Israel alone. They certainly will provide advice and guidance but I think that America recognizes that a price wherein 10,000 prisoners will be released would be a very difficult decision for Israel to make.”
He disapproved of the recent sanctions against Israeli citizens: “I think that the issuing of the executive order was a mistake because it gives some sort of moral equivalency between these lawless acts of vigilantism and Hamas. That being said, the so-called settler violence is against the law, it is something that should be stopped, and Israel should do all it can to ensure that those acts are prosecuted.”
“The four people that you mentioned who were sanctioned were convicted by Israeli courts, so we know that they were guilty. Here, the Israeli government has already said they did bad things, and the United States is saying ‘Okay you've convicted them, and we believe that there should be sanctions on them. They only picked four. I think that's meant to send a signal to the international community that the US will ensure that Israel does the right thing. It’s also a signal to the Gulf States, as we look towards some sort of agreement with the Saudis, that the US can have an influence on Israel and a signal to Israel that we're watching you.”
He noted that the sanctions focused only on those already convicted and that the plans to sanction Ministers Ben-Gvir and Smotrich had been dropped. “I think it speaks to the limited nature of the executive order that it only includes these four convicted Israelis. I think that was very deliberate to sort of pinpoint and focus these sanctions in that way.”
This was despite the recent clash between Minister Ben-Gvir and the Biden administration: “ Yesterday, Minister Ben-Gvir wrote that President Biden is a friend of Israel. As far as his other comments, I've been involved in US relations for a while, and this is not the first time that a minister of Israel’s government has spoken in a way different than his Prime Minister.”
“That being said, I think his comments are unhelpful. President Biden's support for Israel is indicative of the fundamental strength of the relationship between the US and Israel, and it’s something I think we should be heralding and giving positive reinforcement to.” He also pointed out how several other prominent Israeli figures directly contradicted Ben-Gvir’s statements, and how Ben-Gvir himself walked his accusations back the day after, saying “I think the government is in the right place.”
Regarding the possibilities for ‘the day after’, he stated: “I've spoken at length to my government and yours about this. I think that there is some aspiration to take the relationship between Israel and her neighbors and the Palestinians in a positive direction. I think that having that vision is important for the international community and, again, it's important for the Gulf States.”
“That being said, Israelis right now don’t have room, mentally, for a Palestinian state from left to right, and the polling data shows that the Palestinian people are not ready to live in harmony with Israel, so you have a situation where neither the Israeli people nor the Palestinian people are in a place where it makes sense. The idea of shoehorning a Palestinian entity of some sort in this current environment seems unrealistic.”
William was himself in Israel on October 7th and recounts his experiences since the war broke out. “I was here for Simchat Torah. From Thursday, October to Saturday morning, there was happiness and celebrations everywhere. On October 7th I woke up in the Jewish Quarter to the sound of sirens, and Israel changed.”
“It's been tremendously emotionally devastating for all of us. The unity and solidarity of the Israeli people and American Jewry is palpable and a blessing. Within the Conference, we have never been more agreeable than we are now. The support for the people of Israel and the IDF is tremendous.”
“We are one people. October 7th, more than anything else, has crystallized that, and God willing we will move forward from this as a stronger people.