Where Does This J Street Go?
by Theodore Samets
Summer is a time for sales. It’s a time for vacations. It’s a time to escape work in the afternoon to get to the beach or the golf course.
It’s not usually a time for negotiating the final parameters of an agreement between Israelis and Palestinians. The folks at J Street are trying to change that.
For just over a month, J Street has been pushing a campaign they call “Two-State Summer,” which they describe as “a push to support President Obama’s vision for a real and final resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
If you don’t follow J Street on Twitter or like the organization on Facebook, you may not have heard of the campaign, but – get excited – you may soon, because J Street is planning an “August Day (sic) of action to publicly demonstrate broad support for the President’s vision.”
Since the organization’s birth, J Street has tried to claim that they were one of the only Jewish organizations that strongly supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Ignoring widespread support for the idea across party lines and throughout the Jewish community, they’ve worked to label those who oppose their efforts as opposed to peace.
It hasn’t worked. Instead, they’ve been mired by accusations – among others – that the organization isn’t actually pro-Israel and concerns over J Street founder Jeremy Ben-Ami’s lies about George Soros’s support for the organization.
Yet their newest plan seems ill conceived, even for J Street. Instead of focusing on the upcoming U.N. vote on a unilateral Palestinian declaration of a state, which is a great threat to the peace process J Street claims to support, they’ve continued their selfish, go it alone attitude with their “two-state summer.” (The organization itself does not take a stand on the vote, instead encouraging “diplomatic efforts” that would make such a vote “unnecessary.”)
This is all despite the fact that Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, refuses to sit down with the Israeli government and negotiate. How does J Street propose reaching the two-state solution they claim to so actively desire if they can’t get Abbas to agree to negotiations?
J Street openly claims to be President Obama’s “blocking back” on Israel policy. So far, they haven’t had more success than President Obama or anyone else in bringing the two-state solution to fruition.Maybe this is because they are more focused on claiming support for two states as their cause and theirs alone instead of recognizing that a passion for such an agreement is at the heart of most American Jewish organizations and most American Jews.
The two-state summer campaign is showing that J Street may just be the Jon Huntsman of Israel organizations. (Or is Jon Huntsman the J Street of the Republican primaries?) Despite protestations that they have widespread support, the organization seems to be at risk of losing the only folks who really do follow their efforts: the media. There’s been little coverage, if any, of the “two-state summer,” which is J Street’s current focus. Perhaps the media has realized the minority of American Jews on whose behalf J Street speaks.
For those who care about Israel and the US-Israel relationship and who genuinely desire a peace that keeps the Jewish state safe and secure while creating an independent Palestinian state, it is becoming clearer every day that J Street is not the answer. Instead, the organization helps to elevate anti-Israel voices (like the J Street-endorsed Rep. Lynn Woolsey) and works against the efforts of the democratically-elected Israeli government.
But if J Street proves me wrong and shows that YouTube videos and strategy sessions in Manhattan are the way to peace before the autumnal equinox, more power to them. I’ll tip my cap and write them a check.