The Limitations Of J Street

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on November 9, 2009

Gideon Lichfield points them out:

To call J Street “anti-Israel” is simply absurd. But a harder charge to shake off is that it doesn’t represent the Jewish mainstream. The lobby’s oft-repeated claim that it speaks for the silent majority, because most Jews in both America and Israel support a two-state solution, is slightly disingenuous. The difficulty is not with the solution, but how to get there. The split between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza, though it can be blamed as much on U.S. and Israeli meddling as on Palestinian infighting, has left the Palestinians without leaders who can do a deal on their behalf, much less carry it through. AIPAC doesn’t oppose a two-state deal; it just doesn’t trust the Palestinians to implement one. A lot of Israelis would agree.

So the question is how much J Street’s alignment with Israeli thinking matters. One view is that credibility in Washington must be won first in Jerusalem and that J Street will therefore have to work hard at its conservative profile. “AIPAC is the Likud in America,” said one Israeli at the conference. “J Street needs to be Kadima,” Israel’s most centrist party, which espouses a two-state deal. (Kadima won the most seats in the last election, though it was the Likud that managed to form a right-wing coalition.) But while J Street won endorsements from Kadima’s leader, Tzipi Livni, as well as the president of Israel, Shimon Peres, the names on a letter of support from Israeli dignitaries suggested that most of its friends there are from Labor or Meretz, the declining parties of the Israeli peace camp.

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