Ackerman Turns On J Street

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY 5)

After learning of J-Street‘s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and — critically — would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.

It is not Israel that is refusing to enter final status negotiations. It is not Israel that has refused again and again to make unilateral gestures of good faith (recall the hundreds of West Bank security checkpoints and roadblocks removed, and the 10 month settlement freeze). It is not Israel that is now trying to force the peace process back in to the same dead-end from which the Obama Administration has spent the past month trying to extract itself. But astonishingly, it is Israel that J-Street would put in the stocks in the public square.

The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council, is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.

America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.

Congressman Gary Ackerman is the Ranking Democratic member of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia.

See J-Street’s response after the jump.
— J-Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami

J Street deeply regrets and objects to Rep. Gary Ackerman’s statement today. It reflects a misunderstanding of J Street’s position and of the UN Resolution in question.

J Street hopes “never to see the state of Israel publicly taken to task by the United Nations,” as we said in our statement last week. In fact, our statement outlined how both Israel and the United States can help to avoid this issue coming to a vote at the United Nations – first, by Israel acting in its own self-interest to freeze settlement activity over the Green Line and, second, by the Obama Administration asserting “clear leadership in a serious effort to reach a two-state resolution of the conflict.”

In the absence of either of these, it should not surprise Representative Ackerman or other friends of Israel that the issue is brought to the United Nations and the broader court of world opinion. Without a two-state solution to the conflict in the near term, pressure on Israel in international fora will increasingly be the norm and not the exception.

As supporters of Israel, the fact that we have reached this point pains us deeply, and so does the Congressman’s misrepresentation of our position and of this resolution.

First, we do not “support” UN condemnation of Israel or endorse this resolution. We have urged the United States to consider withholding its veto from a resolution criticizing Israeli settlement activity – a resolution that closely tracks the policy of the United States under the last eight administrations.

Second, the resolution expresses support for a two-state solution and stresses the urgency of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. It calls on both parties to improve the situation on the ground, build confidence, and create conditions necessary for promoting the peace process. The resolution does not, as the Congressman implies, place the ‘whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process’ on Israel – and neither does J Street.

Third, the resolution calls on both parties to continue negotiations on final status issues.

The status quo in the Middle East is untenable. The future of Israel, as both a democracy and the homeland of the Jewish people, hangs in the balance without progress toward a two-state solution.

At a moment crying out for leadership, what’s needed now is not the politics of yesterday that the Congressman offers with this attack, but the courage to put on the table the tough steps that are needed to end this conflict. We do Israel no favors by offering a pass from facing the consequences of counter-productive actions and policies.

J Street has never excused Palestinian intransigence or signaled that the Palestinian leadership need not meet its obligations as well. We have called on the leaders of all parties to help bring about a reasonable, negotiated two-state resolution to the conflict.

We urge Congressman Ackerman to take a closer look at J Street’s statement, the UN Resolution and the situation on the ground. Saving the two-state solution will require leaders with courage and vision, both of which are sadly lacking in the Congressman’s statement today.

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