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J Street leader supports a two-state deal on Netanyahu’s terms

Israel/Palestine
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Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street

Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street

I have to admit that I have given up on the two-state solution, maybe not in principle, but I just do not see the Israelis agreeing to the minimum Palestinian demands.  Also, I have always been skeptical about J Street.  It seemed that the pro-Israel group did more for rehabilitating Israel’s tarnished image and promoting Barack Obama than contributing to Israeli/Palestinian peace.  Yet I sometimes feel guilty about not being more sympathetic because at least they are getting Jews to talk about making peace.  And then I hear another statement from their founder and leader, Jeremy Ben-Ami, which makes me, return again to my negative assessment.

Listening to Jeremy Ben-Ami speak at the Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) forum recently, I found that not only does he support the two-state solution in principle, but he supports the type of two-state solution that the present Israeli government is likely to propose.  Such an agreement will either be rejected by the Palestinians or forced upon them by Israel and its American ally.

Unfortunately, the history of the peace process and the track records of current Israeli leaders indicate that the only agreement that Israel will currently sign is one that would severely limit Palestinian sovereignty, and would maximize the amount of land and the number of settlers which would become part of the future Israeli state. It is discouraging that the largest Jewish-American organization dedicated to Middle East peace would take a position which supports the Netanyahu government at the negotiation table and one that will neither bring justice for, nor acceptance by, the Palestinian people.

At the MEPC forum, Jeremy Ben-Ami stated that right-wing Israeli politicians like Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Tzachi Hanegbi, all have changed their previous positions and now accept the two-state solution.  He also expressed confidence that the Israelis and Palestinians will reach a successful agreement during the present U.S.-brokered talks.

Ian Lustick, the author of “The Two State Illusion,” in response to Ben-Ami’s optimistic assessment of the chance for successful current peace talks, responded that the J Street leader was being “played” by Netanyahu, implying that Ben-Ami does not see that the Israeli Prime Minister has no intention of signing an equitable peace treaty despite his declarations that he is ready to do so.  I wonder if Ben-Ami actually believes in Netanyahu’s good intentions, as Lustick implies. Maybe Ben-Ami actually accepts the Israeli hardline position as the only possible way to the two-state reality, which he sees as in Israel’s best interest.  Listening to him, I began to think that he may be more devoted to a two-state solution and his pro-Israel position, than to a just resolution of the conflict and for Palestinian rights.

When Ben-Ami declared confidence in Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Tzachi Hanegbi, he declared confidence in three politicians who have long histories of opposition to any peace agreement with the Palestinians.  Then, identifying with them, Ben-Ami proudly declared that both he and they were all right wing once, but now all believe in a two-state settlement.  The question is:  What kind of a two-state settlement?

To start with Ben-Ami legitimized Netanyahu’s insistence on maintaining a long-term Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley.  This proposal is adamantly rejected by Palestinians and some Israelis who rightly see it as an unacceptable limitation to Palestinian sovereignty.  But Ben-Ami mentioned it as a matter for negotiations between those who want to see the Israelis occupy the Jordan Valley for 30 years and those who do not want them there at all.  Presumably, a fair outcome, according to the J Street leader, would be to split the difference and have the Israeli army remain in Palestine for 15 years!

Instead of giving the Netanyahu government its unqualified support in the current round of talks, might it be better for J Street to remain at least somewhat skeptical of the intentions of the current Israeli leaders and to support steps which would help insure the success of the current talks?

Daniel Kurtzer, who spoke at the recent J Street Conference, offered two worthwhile suggestions.  First, Israel should freeze all settlement expansion during the negotiations. Second, the U.S. should present a treaty proposal to the parties based on the past agreements to be used as a starting point for the negotiations.  Kurtzer is a past member of the U.S. peace processing team, as well as being a former Ambassador to Tel Aviv.  He is a Jew who is pro-Israel.  Still, he knows Netanyahu is not going to concede anything unless he is pushed by the U.S.

Shouldn’t Jeremy Ben-Ami also be making proposals that will support a just two-state peace agreement instead of talking endlessly about Israeli security needs, giving a vote of confidence to the Israeli government, and advocating  a significant Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley?

I wonder how J Street members– who it is widely believed seek more flexibility from Israel than their organization’s leadership– feel about Ben-Ami’s tough line.

Ira Glunts
About Ira Glunts

Ira Glunts is a retired college librarian who lives in Madison, NY. His twitter handle is @abushalom

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20 Responses

  1. pabelmont
    pabelmont
    October 11, 2013, 11:31 am

    Ira, an awful lot of people have given up on — not 2SS itself but — any just and lasting peace of a 2SS kind negotiated voluntarily between Israel and Palestine without the imposition of pressure from the outside.

    It’s quite a mouthful, but

    if you’re giving up on it, you’ve got to NAME it: you’ve given up on 2SS achieved voluntarily between the parties without outside pressure.

    And that brings up the subject of what peaceniks should be working for — which is, I believe, international pressure on Israel to conduct the occupation for so long as it continues legally at least to the extent of removing the settlers, taking down the wall, probably taking down all the settlement buildings, returning the land confiscated by Israel to the Palestinians from whom it was confiscated. This is the “S” in “BDS”.

    There are some signs that the USA is already doing this — if in a very small and hidden way — by encouraging EU to boycott the settlements and by encouraging the World Bank to write a damning report on the economic effects of the occupation. It needs to do more. The EU needs to do much more. Brazil, India, Turkey, Indonesia, China, Russia, they all need to step up and make the “S” in “BDS” a powerful thing, a thing that Israel can no longer ignore or write-off.

    So, Ira, don’t give up, and don’t pay attention to J-Street’s leadership (but do take a look at the members).

    • MHughes976
      MHughes976
      October 11, 2013, 12:18 pm

      Do we have reason to think that Netanyahu intends to make any specific proposal on these or any.terms?

      • piotr
        piotr
        October 11, 2013, 1:40 pm

        It depends what “intends” means. Would Netanyahu made any specific proposals along those lines if the alternative would be reduction of the trade with Israel to “humanitarian supplies”, copying what Israel did with Gaza?

        For sure, without pressure GoI will just expand Apartheid. A solution must be imposed or there will be no solution, just deteriorating status quo.

  2. ritzl
    ritzl
    October 11, 2013, 1:29 pm

    Thanks Ira. I wish that these panels would go on the road out here in the hinterlands. It would show how the general public is so totally disregarded by the pro-Israel side, and how relateable (in the “if someone invaded your house, how would you feel? sense) the Palestinian side is.

    But then the pro-Israel side won’t do that, and the Palestinians face a huge risk by taking it to the people in that the people may not relate to their circumstances. But then again, tying the fertility of the moment for the ABQ billboards (Thanks Annie/JVP) to this wish, we in the hinterlands may be ripe for a new/fresh look at this.

    Something’s got to change the dynamic, one way or tuther. I don’t think opinion/policy on this issue can be changed in NY/DC anymore. Ben-Ami is a reflection of that.

  3. seafoid
    seafoid
    October 11, 2013, 1:40 pm

    So Jstreet worked on Judistan ‘s image. That sort of work is like taking tablets. There is no magic tab and you have to follow up. Meanwhile Israël continues to deteriorate .

  4. James Canning
    James Canning
    October 11, 2013, 2:01 pm

    If J-Street thinks Israel should keep all the illegal colonies of Jews inside the insane apartheid barrier, it is well wide of the mark. In my view.

  5. MahaneYehude1
    MahaneYehude1
    October 11, 2013, 3:32 pm

    What will happen when a Palestinian state is established?

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4439109,00.html

    And I say… Be’ezrat Hashem Wa-Inshallah!!!!

    • Woody Tanaka
      Woody Tanaka
      October 11, 2013, 4:59 pm

      Interesting that nowhere does the author of the article note the most important thing that will happen when the Palestinian state is recognized: that the criminal oppression, occupation of the uniformed israeli terrorists will end and the murder, theft, etc., committed by them will cease, and the Palestinians will be liberated from the tyranny. Of course, this is israeli media, so what the hell do they care about things like human rights, when meaningless junk like tourism to the Apartheid State have to be discussed…

      (And of course, the ynet article uses a delusional, denialist phrasology stating that the Palestinian state will be established when, in fact, it has already been established, but is simply not recognized by the zionist judeo-supremacists. Again, it’s a zionist news source, so what do they care about truth and reality.)

    • Shingo
      Shingo
      October 11, 2013, 8:35 pm

      What will happen when a Palestinian state is established?

      Israel is opposed to a Palestinian state, so it won’t happen. Even the moderates in Israel are in fact right wing nut jobs.
      http://mondoweiss.net/2013/10/charming-netanyahu-message.html

      • James Canning
        James Canning
        October 13, 2013, 2:50 pm

        There is a Palestinian state, but it does not control its borders.

    • RoHa
      RoHa
      October 12, 2013, 2:03 am

      “The researchers predict that the Palestinian state would be secular and democratic,”

      Interesting.

      “However, researchers say that there will need to be a symbolic reconciliation between the Israeli and Palestinian people, in order for peace to be felt on the streets, and that it not remain only between leaders. ”

      This is where it starts getting difficult. The Israelis will need to say “We were wrong to take your country. We were wrong to drive you out. We were wrong to deny your rights, and to claim that our rights were more important. We were wrong to lie about it. From now on all Arab citizens of Israel will have equal rights with Jewish citizens. There will be no Jewish privilege here.”

      Can the Israelis bring themselves to say that?

      “The study concludes that the establishment of the Palestinian state will solve the refugee problem because it will give them a way to meet their national aspirations . The process, as it was explained, would be similar to what Diaspora Jews experienced prior to the creation of the State of Israel and beyond. ”

      And this bit seems very odd to me. Do Palestinians actually have “national aspirations”, or is this just a Zionist fantasy? (Shmuel thinks they do.) Even if they do, how will this affect the aspirations of the Palestinians to live in the parts of Palestine from which they were driven? How will it solve the refugee problem?

      • Shmuel
        Shmuel
        October 12, 2013, 3:32 am

        Do Palestinians actually have “national aspirations”, or is this just a Zionist fantasy? (Shmuel thinks they do.)

        I’m not sure what I have to do with any of this, but the “study” cited by MY1 strikes me as the usual self-serving Israeli claptrap (Jordanian and Palestinian fig leaves notwithstanding). Of course Palestinians have “national aspirations”, but there is no reason to believe that they are identical to Zionist aspirations. Palestinian refugees have a connection to specific places — towns, villages, homes and communities — rather than a purely generic concept of “homeland”.

        The “study” simply wishes this connection away, comparing return to “return”, with no apparent basis beyond the desire to give an a posteriori “academic” imprimatur to a failed, one-sided “peace” process that has consistently refused to address the refugee issue in any serious way.

      • RoHa
        RoHa
        October 12, 2013, 6:53 am

        Sorry. Wrong Shmuel. That was Shmuel Sermoneta-Gertel.

        http://mondoweiss.net/2012/06/one-state-two-states-and-the-art-of-the-possible.html/comment-page-1#comment-462355

        And yes, it is just another way of trying to convert the aspiration to live in Palestine to an aspiration to live in a “Palestinian State” somewhere or other. In Jordan, if necessary, but preferably Antarctica or on the Moon. But not Palestine. And especially not the bit that is now Israel.

  6. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870
    October 11, 2013, 4:10 pm

    RE: “At the MEPC forum, Jeremy Ben-Ami stated that right-wing Israeli politicians like Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni and Tzachi Hanegbi, all have changed their previous positions and now accept the two-state solution.” ~ Ira Gluntz

    ISRAEL’S URI AVNERY DOES NOT SEEM TO THINK NETANYAHU’S ACCEPTANCE OF THE TWO-STATE SOLUTION IS GENUINE:
    “And the Winner is … Netanyahu: A World Record for Chutzpah”, by Uri Avnery, CounterPunch.org, 8/16/13

    [EXCERPTS] I don’t know if the Guinness Book of World Records has a special section for Chutzpah.

    If it does not, it should. That’s the one competition where we might take home a few gold medals.

    The first one would surely go to Binyamin Netanyahu.

    This week, on the eve of the first round of serious negotiations between the Israeli Government and the Palestinian Authority, Netanyahu did two interesting things: he announced plans for several large new settlement projects and he accused the Palestinians of grievous incitement against Israel. . .

    . . . So is this “peace process” serious? What does Netanyahu want?

    Does he want to enter the history books as the “Israeli de Gaulle”, the wise Zionist leader who put an end to 120 years of conflict?

    Or is he just another smart guy who is making a tactical move to avoid a tussle with the US and stop the de-legitimization process at least for a while?

    As it looks now, de Gaulle in his heaven can relax. No competitor in sight.

    There is not the slightest indication of any peace orientation. Quite the contrary. Our government is using the new “peace process” as a smoke screen behind which the settlement bulldozer is working full time.

    The government condemns the EU boycott resolution because it “harms the peace process”. It rejects all demands for freezing the settlements because this would “obstruct the peace process”. Investing hundreds of millions in settlements which under any imaginable peace agreement will have to be evacuated is, it seems, favorable for peace.

    So is there hope? Time to quote again the Yiddish saying: “If God wills, even a broomstick can shoot!”

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/08/16/a-world-record-for-chutzpah/

    • DICKERSON3870
      DICKERSON3870
      October 11, 2013, 4:25 pm

      P.S.
      • RE: Or is he [Netanyahu] just another smart guy who is making a tactical move to avoid a tussle with the US and stop the de-legitimization process at least for a while? . . . There is not the slightest indication of any peace orientation. Quite the contrary.” ~ Uri Avnery (from above)
      • AND RE: Ian Lustick, the author of ‘The Two State Illusion’, in response to Ben-Ami’s optimistic assessment of the chance for successful current peace talks, responded that the J Street leader was being ‘played’ by Netanyahu . . .” ~ Ira Gluntz

      • FROM JOEL KOVEL, 1-20-13:

      . . . As with everyone I know of in official political culture, [Thomas] Friedman [probably like Jeremy Ben-Ami – J.L.D.] assumes that Israel is a rational actor on the international stage who will obey the calculus of reward and punishment that regulates the conduct of normal states.
      The presumption is that if you tell it the truth, and even pull back US support, it will get the message, reflect, and change its ways. But Israel is not a normal state, except superficially. It will make adjustments, pulling back here, co-operating there, making nice when necessary, crafting its message using a powerful propaganda apparatus employing the most up-to-date social science. But this is simply tactical and no more predicts or explains the behavior of the Zionist state than an individual sociopath can be explained by the fact that he obeys traffic signals while driving to the scene of his crime. . .

      SOURCE – http://mondoweiss.net/2013/01/israel-nominaton-hagel.html

  7. W.Jones
    W.Jones
    October 11, 2013, 5:10 pm

    I sometimes feel guilty about not being more sympathetic because at least they are getting Jews to talk about making peace.
    You would feel guilty either way. If you did not criticize JStreet, you would feel that you were agreeing with its leadership’s positions supporting a softer version of a system you believe is inherently unequal.

    This is because JStreet contains an inherent contradiction by calling itself “pro-Israel, pro-peace”, so long as the Israeli army continues to be at war with the population it conquered. Of course, one can support a government at war and be pro-peace, but nonetheless there is a major contradiction. It is a dual mentality.

    You also pointed to the contradiction in your opening paragraphs. The best answer is what you and others on MW have done- to point that clearly out and address it.

    Jstreet will therefore have both a good, pro-peace and bad, pro-war effect. The pro-war effect actually is not something an organization has to do. In fact, if there was no Jstreet and its members who were only pro-peace were not interested in joining something like it, they would only join JVP as the next best outlet. JStreet’s supporters would say that JVP would not have as many resources as JStreet or as much lobbying power. What this argument implies is that to do good lobbying for peace, one must partly support war because nationalists have the power.

    Ultimately though, this really can defeat the purpose of the peace lobbying. Instead, one could lobby for peace, but do it in such a way that it does not alienate the nationalists yet also avoid promoting them either. Of course, one can just reject this kind of “lobbyist” thinking and state clearly and strongly one’s beliefs in universalism. But in any case, the appeal of JStreet as being a powerful lobby group could be done without those of its non-liberal positions

  8. Walid
    Walid
    October 11, 2013, 5:42 pm

    “Presumably, a fair outcome, according to the J Street leader, would be to split the difference and have the Israeli army remain in Palestine for 15 years!”

    Yes, just about the time it would take for the WB’s water to dry up, for its land to be completely polluted by Israel’s wastes and garbage and for Israel to pack up and walk away from it because there would be nothing left for it to milk there. Any resulting solution from the current talks between Israel and the PA that would be based on a long term period for its full execution would have a very bad smell to it. 10 to 15 years would probably be the time for any agreed RoR to kick in but there too, in that period of time, whatever remained of the original refugees will have died, just like the rest of everything on the WB. Talk about bad faith; Israel has been overholding for 46 years and would still want a few more decades to keep enjoying the forbidden fruits of the WB before withdrawing. Israel goes from gimmick to gimmick to gimmick.

  9. Shingo
    Shingo
    October 11, 2013, 8:36 pm

    J Street is showing it’s true colors more and more by the day, proving once again that the only difference between a right wing Zionist and a left wing Zionist is the lack of honesty of the latter.

  10. Hostage
    Hostage
    October 12, 2013, 2:22 am

    It seems to me that if you end-up endorsing the positions adopted by Obama and Netahyahu anyway, then you should just cut-out the J-Street middlemen and overhead and make your checks payable to the scoundrels in the first place.

  11. HHM
    HHM
    October 12, 2013, 10:41 am

    J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami has said that “J Street is proud of AIPAC’s many accomplishments and clarified that the two groups have different priorities rather than different views.” (Wikipedia) The January 2012 issue of the Lane County Jewish Federation Newsletter, (http://www.jewishfedlc.org/HTML/newsletters.html) page 7 advertises a local event as such: J-Street and AIPAC will present how each organization supports Israel “Come find out how both groups are walking different paths to the same goal.”

    J Street Field Director Carinne Luck stated in this Jewish Review piece (http://tinyurl.com/4hducdv) regarding one of Eugene, Oregon’s J Street events: “…J Street is more often lobbying on the same side as AIPAC…”

    As with other varieties of supremacists, Ben-Ami’s concern is “demographics” as expressed in a CNN interview some years ago. “…I think the sense of urgency has never been greater to address the single greatest threat that Israel faces to its future as a Jewish and democratic state which is the demographic reality that within a matter of years there will be more non-Jews than Jews between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean and at that point Israel really can no longer remain both Jewish and democratic; therefore to avoid that we have to find some way to get to a two-state solution and do it as quickly as possible.”

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