Friday, 14 May 2010

The "Israel-Can-Do-No-Wrong" Boys

Success clearly has not made J Street timid.

This week Jeremy Ben Ami addressed an open letter to the head of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. The Conference -- along with AIPAC, ADL and the American Jewish Committee-- essentially constitute the "Israel is always right" lobby.

Right now the lobby is engaged in a struggle to force the Obama administration to blink in its battle with the Netanyahu administration over settlements. The lobby fears that Obama not only is resistant to caving in to Bibi but is about to commence a full-fledged drive to end the occupation and establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

That could lead to....peace. And God only knows where that could lead.

Ben Ami's challenge is brilliant. Recognizing that the lobby gives lip service to the two-state solution when, in fact, it does everything in its very considerable power to thwart it, Ben Ami asks the following questions. (He addresses them to Alan Solow of the Conference of Presidents but they clearly are also directed at the other conservative lobby mainstays, AIPAC, ADL and the AJC). Ben Ami focuses on Jerusalem but he is really talking about the overall situation, of which Jerusalem is at the core.

I call on you to clarify publicly:

Whether the Conference does in fact support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

If so, whether the Conference would accept that - as part of a two-state solution - Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem should be not only part of a new Palestinian state but its capital.

If not, whether the Conference believes that Israel should retain sovereignty over the more than 200,000 Palestinians living in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem such as Walaja, Shuafat, Bet Hanina, Kufr Aqab, Kalandia, and Wadi Joz.

Finally, if these Arab villages are to remain part of Israel - are you supporting granting Israeli citizenship to the Palestinians who live there and who don't have it now? If so, how can you reconcile such an enormous exception with otherwise unquestioning opposition to providing citizenship to other Palestinians, for instance in the context of addressing the "right of return" in a final status agreement?

Here is the full Ben Ami challenge (note, how he tells the lobby to stop invoking Yitzhak Rabin's name in its effort to thwart the peace process he initiated).

Before J Street, the lobby used to shrug this kind of thing off. No more. The ground has shifted. All it can do (and believe me, it's doing it) is to pray for a GOP takeover of Congress in 2010 and of the White House in 2012.

But, even if that happens (God forbid), Obama still has almost 3 years to achieve his goal of (in George W. Bush's words) "two-States, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security."

Scary, isn't it?

For the lobby, yes it is.

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