‘J Street’ and ‘Peace Now’ say it’s now or never for Obama to bring Netanyahu to heel

Israel/Palestine
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The two liberal Zionist organizations J Street and Americans for Peace Now are demanding that the Obama administration condemn the recent Israeli announcement of a new settlement bloc in the West Bank. The two groups argue that the two-state solution is in jeopardy, and Obama must act now. J Street’s statement is adamant:

Tell President Obama: Stand up for a two-state solution and demand a reversal to the E1 settlements.

So is Peace Now:

Tell Secretary Clinton that if the Obama Administration is truly committed to Israel’s security and its viability, it must intervene and compel the Netanyahu government to reverse its reckless, provocative, and dangerous decisions. These include the announcement of the approval of 3000 new settlement units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem – an announcement that, on its own, sends a message that Prime Minister Netanyahu is eager to undermine Abbas and pander to his right-wing political base in the run-up to Israeli elections early next year.

Tell Secretary Clinton: Get tough now. If not now, soon it will be too late.

Lara Friedman of Peace Now concedes that Netanyahu has humiliated Obama but says that Obama can turn the tables and maybe play a part in the Israeli elections. Notice that she does not come out for sanctions, though she says the two-state solution is disappearing:

Netanyahu and Lieberman believe they are unaccountable because they have never been called to account. They’ve seen that their defiance of Israel’s closest allies carries no price, either diplomatically or in the domestic arena. The two are, of course, linked: Israel’s allies acquiescing to Netanyahu treating them as underlings and enemies has only strengthened Netanyahu politically…

The reality is that world leaders, especially from the U.S. and EU, have tremendous leverage in dealing with Netanyahu and Lieberman. …  For the first time, Netanyahu is getting real push-back [in Europe], sparking a long overdue debate in Israel about the costs Netanyahu’s reckless actions are imposing on Israel….

President Obama has plenty of options for action that don’t require Congressional approval. These include summoning the Israeli Ambassador for a talking-down, recalling the U.S. ambassador in Israel for “consultations,” and strong demarches at the level of Foreign Minister or Netanyahu himself–and making these actions public. They include in a meaningful way turning up the heat on settlements, for example by adopting stronger rhetoric (using words like “obstacles to peace” and “illegal,”), by pursuing special labeling requirements for products produced in settlements, or by launching a review of the activities of U.S. groups that support settlements. …

Given Netanyahu’s serial humiliations of Obama during his first term in office and his apparent efforts to see Obama defeated in the last election, such a change in tone seems a long time coming. If world leaders return to the usual approach of crying foul over Netanyahu provocations but imposing no consequences, then it will soon be impossible to avoid the conclusion that the game is over for the two-state solution….

This is obviously an important moment for American liberal Zionists. They seem to understand that the two-state solution has vanished because of Israeli expansion. They hope that U.S. outspokenness will somehow upend the Israeli electoral process and allow Kadima to create a centrist ruling coalition that will somehow revive the peace process.

Wearing rose-colored glasses, I have often said here that the American Jewish community could knock Netanyahu out of office. But Annie Robbins has pointed out that 40-50 members of the Knesset (about 1/3 of the body) are beholden to the settler community; and Yousef Munayyer has demonstrated that bloc’s power over the entire political order; and David Remnick, observing that trend, has pronounced the Israeli political class a lost cause.

It will be fascinating to see whether the liberal Zionist community can mobilize opposition to Netanyahu in the U.S. While I hold out hope for some shift, B’nai Jeshurun’s cave on Palestinian freedom yesterday suggests that the U.S. Jewish community is still too rightwing to do anything to speak out against Israel’s apartheid leadership.

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