A little while back, I had the bitter pleasure of criticizing the J Street student division for having a challenging time describing themselves – and ultimately they rejected the description – as “pro-Israel.”
It turns out the J Street students were prescient. They were merely expressing publicly what J Street, the organization, would demonstrate a few months hence.
Today, J Street went on the offensive.
…The Obama administrationâ€™s reaction to the treatment of the Vice President last week and to the timing and substance of the Israeli governmentâ€™s announcement was both understandable and appropriate.
As Vice President Biden said, â€œSometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth.â€ That is what he, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod have done in recent days â€“ and J Street, along with many friends of Israel, stands solidly behind them.
It’s true that only a friend can deliver the hardest truth. However, when the friend starts frothing at the mouth yelling at his junior friend and then after a year of obvious failure, falls right back into his previous pattern of undermining the possibility of negotiations by creating undue expectations that he will deliver the friend on a platter to his nemesis, then the friend’s behavior is neither understandable nor appropriate. In fact, it harms the peace process while undermining Israel and unfairly laying the blame for any failures at its feet.
Then J Street offers their recommendation for an agreement:
We urge the United States to take this opportunity to suggest parameters to the parties for resuming negotiations â€“ basing borders on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, with the Palestinian state demilitarized and on territory equivalent to 100% of the area encompassed by the pre-1967 Armistice lines.
Hmmmm, where have I heard that before?
Oh wait, I know!! First I heard Israel offer that to the Palestinians at Taba and then I heard Israel offer it to the Palestinians in 2008. The first time, it led to nothing but more violence, and the second time it led to nothing and a couple of months later we had Cast Lead.
The Obama administration will find vast support among American Jews and other friends of Israel for a bold new approach that aims to advance that interest and guarantees Israel a secure, democratic and Jewish future.
Yes it would.
Which is why most sane supporters of Israel realize that Obama has just stumbled again, just as he did when he first came to power and gave the Palestinians a reason to do nothing for an entire year, by demanding that the Israelis unilaterally stop all settlement construction and including east Jerusalem, part of Israel’s capital. They anticipated more pressure on Israel and did nothing while it was pending.
Now we are back to square one. It’s easy to blame it on Israel, especially if one rejects Netanyahu’s explanation that he had no idea that new construction in Ramat Shlomo would be announced on the eve of new talks with Biden visiting as a gesture of goodwill. However, even if this is true, and chances are it is NOT true, the last thing the US should have done is go on the warpath with Israel.
Ramat Shlomo is a Jewish neighborhood in a part of Jerusalem that will remain in Israeli hands. Building there is certainly part of the consensus of Israeli society both on the Left and the Right. If you’re offended about the timing of the announcement, that is fair. However, an apology was made at the highest levels and making a big stink over construction there is inappropriate, particularly since it plays into the hands of the Palestinians who are on the other side of these negotiations.
It also interferes, in a fundamental way, with Israel’s sovereignty. Contrary to the opinion of some commentaries out there, Israel is not a child and does not require hand-holding or scolding. The complexities of Israel’s existence are perhaps difficult to comprehend these days where the primary opponent has become the Palestinians, not so much other Arab states, and where the “settlements” have become the perceived stumbling block and not Palestinian refusal to compromise or negotiate. However, Israel is a sovereign state, and it has the right to govern itself.
In fact, as we watch Hillary berating Netanyahu like he’s a five year old dipping his hand into the cookie jar, and Oren being treated by the Administration as Israel treats the envoy of a country whose leader goes around the world accusing Israel of war crimes and intentional murder of Palestinian children, one wonders what the Americans expect to happen. Do they think the Palestinians will now negotiate in good faith? Or do they think the Palestinians will realize they’ve now bought another year or so? Do they think the Palestinians will offer any significant concession, or gain brazenness and complacency – as we’ve already seen with their subsequent commemoration of a square to a terrorist who murdered Israeli civilians? Do they think the Israeli public will trust the Americans to be honest brokers, or that they will come to view this administration with wariness and distrust, thus undermining any concessions Israel could have made that now will appear to be forced upon Israel and against its best interests?
One thing is certain. If Obama would apply to his Iranian problem the same vigor he applies to castigating Israel, insulting its leaders and undermining the prospect of bringing the parties to the negotiating table by weakening Israel’s position, Iran would have stopped or at least slowed its nuclear plans long ago.
I guess we have our own amateurs running the place.
Which is all to say that once again J Street is in the wrong and as a friend to Israel the best thing it could do is reject the US administration’s misplaced full-court press on Israel and try to bring the two countries back to the equilibrium which existed before Obama came to power. That will enhance the already remote prospects for peace faster than any other approach.