New Jewish lobby seeks to redefine `pro-Israel'
by shergald, Fri Apr 18, 2008 at 06:36:26 AM EDT
Jim Lobe reported this interesting news through the Inter Press Service, which was picked up by The Electronic Intifada, and republished on 17 April 2008.
WASHINGTON, 15 April (IPS) - A new group of prominent US Jews who believe that the so-called "Israel Lobby" has been dominated for too long by neo-conservatives and other Likud-oriented hawks has launched a new organization to help fund political candidates who favor a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a stronger US role in achieving it.
Almost two years in the making, the "J Street" project plans to spend some 1.5 million dollars -- about half of which has been pledged to date -- in its first year of operation, a portion of which will go to supporting half a dozen Congressional campaigns for candidates who share its pro-peace and pro-Israel views.
According to Jeremy Ben-Ami, a founder and director of both J Street and its political-action affiliate, JstreetPac:
"For too long, the loudest American voices on Israel have come from the far right. Those voices have claimed that the only way to be pro-Israel is to support military responses to political problems, to refuse to engage one's adversaries in dialogue and to put off the day of reckoning when hard compromises will be required to achieve a peaceful and secure future for Israel and the entire Middle East. These are not the kind of smart, tough views that serve the long-term interests of the state of Israel, of the United States -- or frankly, the American Jewish community."
The J Street project is reported to have the endorsement of two dozen prominent Israelis: former directors of Israel's foreign ministry, a former chief of the Israel Defense Forces General Staff, a former commander of the Israeli air force and other top former military and intelligence officers. In a letter to the J Street founders, they wrote,
Now more than ever, true friendship requires strong American leadership and engagement to move the sides toward a comprehensive two-state solution. With time running out, business-as-usual will not do.
The J Street project is an obvious challenge to AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), whose right wing leadership opposes Israeli concessions in negotiations with Palestinians and Israel's other Arab neighbors, and aligns itself with the most right wing Likudnik American organizations like the Zionist Organization of America and the American Jewish Committee, whose Zionist agendas speak only of Judea and Samaria (WestBank), lands continuing to be colonized by the Israel government. AIPAC has also cultivated alliances with prominent right-wing Christian Zionists such as John Hagee, founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), who recently urged a preemptive war with Iran.
The J Street project is new, reportedly less well funded than AIPAC (1.5 million as opposed to 50 million via PACs), and lacks the influence of AIPAC in Congress. An interesting statistic reported in this article is that Jewish Americans, although they make up only about two percent of the US population, provide up to 40 percent of campaign contributions to Democratic candidates and up to 20 percent of campaign contributions to Republican candidates. Israel cannot be ignored by any presidential or congressional candidate.
The present Democratic candidates are undoubtedly aware of this funding potential and thus, fear of AIPAC, is a factor in American politics. The positions taken by J Street, however, are also relevant to the foreign policy agenda of the next president, and these are what they are:
...calls for territorial compromises with the Palestinians based largely on the 1967 borders with reciprocal land swaps and the division of Jerusalem. The group also favors strong US support for Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations and direct, high-level US talks with Iran to address all issues of mutual concern, including ending Iranian opposition to Arab-Israeli peace efforts and its support for armed anti-Israel groups in Palestine and Lebanon.
The full article is copyrighted, but it can be LINKED HERE.
A final quote from the interview with Ben Ami:
"Voices of reason need to reclaim what it means to be pro-Israel and to establish in American political discourse that Israel's core security interest is to achieve a negotiated two-state solution and to define once and for all permanent, internationally-recognized borders."
It is evident that being pro-Israel in the J Street sense is also being pro-Palestinian, even though not all issues relevant to a final peace settlement are discussed.