Leaders of Meretz USA joined with Judy Gelman, policy chair of Ameinu, to jointly lobby Congress on May 24, as it struggled to conclude business in time for the summer recess. Through the initiative of Meretz USA president Lawrence I. Lerner, the delegation visited the offices of New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, plus NJ Representatives Donald Payne and Albio Sires; the group also met with the foreign policy specialist of New York Representative Jerrold Nadler. These were mostly meetings with staff, but the group also spoke to Sen. Lautenberg, who greeted his long-time acquaintances, Larry Lerner and Rabbi Israel (Sy) Dresner, with special warmth.
The staff persons were attentive but varied widely in terms of the knowledge they displayed on the Israeli scene. We referred them to news sources informed by our overall viewpoint favoring an active US role to facilitate a negotiated two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians, and we left them with copies of ISRAEL HORIZONS. The delegation argued the point that Jewish opinion on Israel is not monolithic and not in lock-step with hardline views generally associated with AIPAC, and that this is true even for pro-Israel Jews like ourselves.
In terms of specific legislation, the only item on hand was a resolution congratulating Israel on the 40th anniversary of the victory in the 1967 Six Day War. We advised that such a resolution should not be offered in a triumphal spirit but rather as a reminder of the need to end the conflict through negotiations. We also would object to wording that applauds the reunification of Jerusalem as if it were an undisputed fact, a city that is one-third Palestinian Arab and remains disunited in important ways and whose ultimate status must be negotiated. (In this connection, I suggest reading M.J. Rosenberg’s fine piece, “Congressional Time Warp,” his latest weekly column, which he writes under the auspices of the Israel Policy Forum.)
In addition, we offered advice to Congresspersons intending to visit Israel, including the promise of contacts in Israel with dovish Members of Knesset and other prominent moderate and progressive Israelis and Palestinians. Meretz USA intends to follow up in cultivating relationships with members of Congress and to cooperate with like-minded organizations, including among moderate Palestinian Americans, with this purpose in mind.