Speaking only for myself, I e-mailed someone I know who is progressive and a Zionist but concerned that J Street is not adequately addressing Israel’s needs. The following is a somewhat modified version of how I responded to his concerns:
I understand your distrust of J St., but I have decided to be active within it. First of all, I think their position on Iran is not well understood; according to this statement online, it favors sanctions against Iran and diplomacy, but not an attack. I share this view, although I’m not sure that stating in advance that military action is completely “off the table” is the way to go; I would also favor a secret campaign of sabotage against their nuclear program, such as is probably now being pursued by Israel and/or the US.
But J St. is correct that an overt and massive attack would be hugely destabilizing and dangerous for Israel and the US — only to be contemplated as a last resort. And I don’t believe that Israel alone is capable of launching an effective attack. I’d also suggest that the US reassure the Iranians that it is not seeking regime change, but only measures which guarantee that its nuclear development is for peaceful purposes.
This is part of J St.’s position on settlements, which I fully endorse:
…. Certain agreed modifications to the 1967 lines are possible – allowing some settlements to be incorporated within Israel’s final and agreed borders in the context of reciprocal land swaps. Those settlements (perhaps accounting for as many as three-quarters of all settlers) will then become part of Israeli recognized sovereign territory and construction there will be able to continue according to the laws and zoning ordinances of those localities. [*It is important to note that J Street supports the concept of a security barrier as an important element of Israel’s defense, but believes that the barrier must be located along an internationally recognized border. Its present route has confiscated land and separated Palestinians from their jobs, health care and family. It will have to be relocated in many sections as part of a final status agreement.]
The way in which the current Israeli government has pursued settlement expansion in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem is pernicious and sabotages a two-state solution. Extremist settler activity in Jerusalem is especially disheartening and destructive to Israel’s interests and needs.
Where I would differ somewhat with J St. would be to cite the ways in which both Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been subverting negotiations. Both have engaged in provocations, in different ways: Israel through settlement expansion and through incendiary rhetoric, laws and proposed laws which threaten the rights of Israeli Arabs and of progressive NGOs. The PA through refusing to officially recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” and demanding a settlement freeze as a precondition for negotiations; but Abbas is more moderate than many give him credit for (read this).
I would also press the point that a Fatah coalition with Hamas only makes sense, from the point of view of progress toward peace, if Hamas explains to Israel’s satisfaction that it is now prepared to accept previous agreements with Israel, to renounce violence and to live in peace with Israel.
As for the PA initiative at the UN, J Street officially opposed it, even supporting a US veto. My position on this would actually be more hopeful and conciliatory, urging that a UN resolution endorses a Palestinian state as part of the eventual solution, in which the borders of Israel and Palestine are peacefully negotiated, including a significant exchange of territories.
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