(JTA) – Ronald Lauder, the president of the World Jewish Congress, said Israeli government policies threaten the country’s democratic character and even its existence. Openly breaking with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an op-ed published Monday in The New York Times, Lauder also pressed hard for a two-state solution – a significant stance because the cosmetics billionaire has the ear of President Donald Trump, who is about to unveil a Middle East peace proposal. Trump has said he is agnostic about whether two states is the preferred outcome for Israel and the Palestinians, and Netanyahu over the past year has retreated from endorsing two states.
“The Jewish democratic state faces two grave threats that I believe could endanger its very existence,” Lauder wrote. “The first threat is the possible demise of the two-state solution. I am conservative and a Republican, and I have supported the Likud party since the 1980s. But the reality is that 13 million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. And almost half of them are Palestinian.”
Lauder also objected to the control that the Orthodox in Israel have over a range of issues including marriage and organized prayer at the Western Wall.
Lauder has also been one of the most consistent voices of support for Trump in the Jewish community. In 2001, Lauder, then chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the foreign policy umbrella for the Jewish community, drew sharp criticism from the body’s constituent groups when he appeared at a rally in Israel against the then government’s proposed peace plan and its concessions to the Palestinians.