The more I read about events in the Middle East and the state of Israel-United States relations, the more despondent I get.
Among the things that bother me is the perspective of Jewish groups which describe themselves as “progressive” and “peace-oriented.”
Over two months ago, I challenged NJ Jewish News readers to “tell me what it means to be ‘pro-peace,’ as used by J Street.” Last week’s NJJN had an article and an op-ed which related to my challenge.
First was the report on J Street founder and CEO Jeremy Ben-Ami who, at a presentation at a New Brunswick synagogue, professed strong support for an active role by the United States in brokering a Mideast peace. Unlike Sen. Robert Menendez, who also spoke at the synagogue, Ben-Ami “endorsed Administration efforts that many pro-Israel activists to his right would consider undue pressure on Jerusalem,” according to the article.
“The best thing the United States can do for Israel is help her face up to these difficult choices and to actively lead the way to a two-state deal,” said Ben-Ami.
On the op-ed pages, Debra DeLee, president and CEO of Americans for Peace Now, took issue with a piece on the same page by the Orthodox Union’s Nathan Diament. She expressed displeasure with prominent American Jews like Diament for demanding that Washington not ask Israel to negotiate over Jerusalem. DeLee aligns herself with Ben-Ami when she proclaims, “Those of us who care about Israel will not be distracted by obstructionists who say they espouse Jewish values. We will continue to back President Obama as he takes steps to help Israel make peace.”
Both Ben-Ami and DeLee want Obama to “help Israel make peace,” seeing this as a tough love process involving an element of coercion; selective coercion to be sure. Neither seems to place any requirement on the Palestinians, nor urge the president to help the Palestinians “face up to these difficult choices.”
When I was a teenager, I went to town hall meeting with members of Congress from the Bronx. One congressman presented a long list of problems to the audience, prompting a constituent to ask what solutions he proposed. The condescending congressman responded, “It is enough for me to think of the questions. The answers have to come from someone else.”
It is one thing to say that you are a pro-peace realist, advocating tough love solutions, and another having to live with the results. Those who have to live with the results are the true realists.
Recently, we have seen various articles about how the president will — or is being urged to — present his own plan for an Israeli-Palestinian peace.
One new reason given by “peace” activists for a Washington-dictated solution is that American interests and lives, particularly in Afghanistan and Iraq, are being jeopardized by Israeli reticence in coming to terms with the Palestinians. The pro-peace people believe that America will somehow be safer if there is “peace” between Israel and Palestine.
Did they fail to see the announcement that Iran would have ICBM capability around 2015? Did they hear Department of Defense Secretary Gates’ warning that the United States has no long-term plan for dealing with a nuclear Iran?
Did they see the rant from the Al Qaida trained, would-be subway bomber that “Zionist Jews” are “destroying this country from within”?
Vagueness has its purposes but eventually you have to get down to specifics.
History teaches us that there are always ramifications from the Law of Unintended Consequences. This is particularly true in the Middle East, starting in modern times with the division of the Ottoman Empire.
In Evita, Che chides Evita Peron, “Forgive my intrusion, but fine as those sentiments sound… little has changed for us peasants down here on the ground/ I hate to sound childish, ungrateful, I don’t like to moan. / But do you now represent anyone’s cause but your own?”
Have Ben-Ami, DeLee, and their adherents considered how their fine sentiments would change life for Israelis on the ground?
Here are but a few of the hard questions for which they should have concrete proposals:
- What streets would you propose to be the border of a divided Jerusalem?
- Does the Palestinian state include Gaza? If so, what should be done about Hamas?
- What happens when there are terrorist incursions into Israel or there are rockets fired into Israel from Palestine?
Each response has to advance the cause of peace and has to demonstrate that Israel will know more peace than it knows now. It’s time to be specific and get real.
While a majority of Israeli Jews favor a two-state solution, two-thirds of Palestinians reject a Palestinian state based on pre-1967 borders. Now, that’s realism.