‘J Street’ says Jewish state ‘hangs in balance’ of failed negotiations

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A few months ago Jeremy Ben-Ami of the liberal Zionist group J Street sent out a report from Israel suggesting that 2013 is the make-or-break year for the two-state solution. That urgency is reflected in his latest note, titled “Decision Time,” which at times sounds a fatalistic note about the possible end of the Jewish state. Some excerpts:

[John Kerry] apparently intends to tell both Israelis and the Palestinians that it’s time to decide if they are serious about engaging in meaningful diplomacy to achieve a two-state solution. If not, he’ll stand down and they can both watch the status quo deteriorate toward further confrontation.

Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, who commands the Israeli military in the West Bank, warned last week that if Kerry’s efforts fail, we could very well see an “escalation” in unrest in the West Bank….

“If we don’t go for the two-state solution, this state will stop being a Jewish state,” [Finance Minister Yair Lapid told the Washington Post]

With the future of the state of Israel, its security and its democratic and Jewish character hanging in the balance, this is the moment for all who care to press both parties to make the compromises and sacrifices necessary to advance a solution to the conflict.

President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry are offering Israel a path to a sustainable and secure future through reasonable negotiation and compromise. It’s a path that may not be available for quite some time if it isn’t taken now.

It is unclear though what Ben-Ami aims to do to rescue the Jewish state. It does not appear that he is willing to take on the US government and the established Jewish organizations. Lately, for instance, he agreed to share a stage with the head of the rightwing pro-settler group StandWithUs who then blasted him for the suggestion that the US government should pressure Israel.

J Street’s problem is that it insists on organizing inside the mainstream Jewish community, so it is constrained by that community’s very conservative understanding. For instance, liberal NY Congresswoman Nita Lowey, who is not on J Street’s team and who represents the hardcore of American Jewish political life, in the latest “Westchester Jewish Life”, repeatedly faults the Palestinians for the failure of the peace process:  

The Congresswoman delivered a strong message to President Abbas, emphasizing the urgency of reengaging in direct negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu now… She also criticized him directly for his incendiary speech in November 2012 at the United Nations etc.

There isn’t going to be a two-state solution because no one has successfully organized inside the Democratic Party to defeat these attitudes.

There are now 650,000 Jews, at least, east of the Green Line. And when 2013 ends without any progress toward removing them, what will J Street do? Support voting rights for Palestinians living alongside those Jews?

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