American Jews Must Support, Not Hinder, Kerry’s Efforts

by Alon Ben-Meir

A noted journalist and author, Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is professor of international relations and Middle East studies at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University. Ben-Meir holds a masters degree in philosophy and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University. His exceptional knowledge and insight, the result of more than 20 years of direct involvement in foreign affairs, with a focus on the Middle East, has allowed Dr. Ben-Meir to offer a uniquely invaluable perspective on the nature of world terrorism, conflict resolution and international negotiations. Fluent in Arabic and Hebrew, Ben-Meir's frequent travels to the Middle East and meetings with highly placed officials and academics in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt, Israel, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, Syria and Turkey provide him with an exceptionally nuanced level of awareness and insight into the developments surrounding breaking news. Ben-Meir often articulates

I am one of those who certainly support J Street’s ongoing efforts to promote Israeli-Palestinian peace, and I applaud their repeated outreach calling on congressional leaders and Jewish groups to support Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace offensive. I am puzzled though by J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami’s call for financial assistance to “help send more pro-Israel, pro-peace candidates to Congress and stand-up to the personal attacks on Kerry.”

Regardless of how well-intended, there are three major concerns over Ben-Ami’s appeal:

To begin with, anyone who follows Congress’ deliberations and sentiments regarding the Israeli-Palestinian peace process witnesses overwhelming support of Israel, and many congressmen have called on the Obama administration not to pressure Israel to make concessions it does not wish to make voluntarily.

The problem here is not that there is no congressional support for Israel, but there are not many who specifically support Kerry’s peace efforts, as stated in Ben-Ami’s call. What this sadly means is that American Jews should elect only representatives that support a certain policy related to Israel and that should be the sole criteria that would qualify them to be elected.

The message that this sends, especially to non-Jewish voters, is that Israel, and only what is good for Israel (albeit from different ideological perspectives), is what should be the litmus test for old or new representatives. What this misguided approach does is reinforce the notion that Congress is in Israel’s pocket, serving one pro-Israeli interest group or another.

The second problem with Ben-Ami’s appeal is that congressional elections will be held toward the end of the year, and all new and veteran members of Congress will effectively start working at the end of January 2015. Considering the urgency to make some serious progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, how will the election of “pro-peace candidates” now help Kerry’s efforts, when time is of the essence?

There is a desperate need to make progress at this very juncture in the negotiations. Not that I expect a comprehensive peace agreement will be achieved within the next twelve months, but if there is no significant progress to keep the Israelis and the Palestinians engaged and hopeful, I seriously doubt that the negotiations will continue for another year.

Ben-Ami himself reaffirmed in his own words that time is critical when he stated: “The next couple of months will be a decisive moment for the peace and security of Israel. As Kerry prepares to roll out his framework agreement, we cannot afford to stand idly by…”

To that end, J Street should rally current members of Congress in support of Kerry’s tireless efforts and present each and every one with the terrible prospect of a new conflagration if Kerry’s efforts fail.

Every congressman should be hearing not only from representatives of the strongly conservative-leaning American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), who blindly supports the current Israeli policy of intransigence, but also from the heads of the plethora of major Jewish organizations who fully support Kerry’s efforts.

The third problem is that although J Street touts itself as an “organization that primarily focuses on nonpartisan education and advocacy on important national issues,” it has done little to educate members of congress with the real conflicting issues between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not enough for a congressman to hear from a lobbyist why he or she should support what is best for Israel.

To educate these representatives about the real issues that separate Israelis from Palestinians, they should be invited to see and listen to Israelis and Palestinians discussing the perils of no peace. They should witness the plight of the Palestinians under occupation and understand why continuing occupation dangerously erodes Israel’s moral standing, which affects every Jew regardless of their place of residence.

J Street must counter AIPAC’s argument that Israel is under siege, surrounded by enemies seeking its destruction. This argument has been effective on Capitol Hill, and instead of pushing for peace now by supporting Kerry’s efforts, they are unwittingly contributing to Israel’s self-destructive policies.

The fact is, despite AIPAC’s best efforts in Washington, Israel is becoming increasingly isolated in the international arena. The potential failure of the current negotiations will squarely fall on AIPAC’s and its surrogates’ shoulders.

J Street must challenge AIPAC on its own turf and demonstrate that the preservation of Israel as a viable and secure state rests on peace even though it requires painful concessions. Regardless of how painful these concessions may be, they will pale in comparison to the self-inflicted wounds that Netanyahu’s policies are leading to.

J Street is an organization worthy of support by every person who cares about Israel’s future and about ensuring that the American-Israeli bond continues to grow stronger. No one, however, should take that for granted.

The US and the West in general are running out of patience and soon there will come the time when Israel can no longer count on their automatic political support, not to mention a host of other collaborative relations critical to Israel’s national security and well-being.

The monumental time, energy and political capital that Kerry has and continues to invest must not be squandered by so-called Jewish leaders who are sitting on their cushy chairs 10,000 miles away and counsel no concessions at the expense of Israeli blood.

They should go not only to Israel but also to the occupied territories and experience the life of a Palestinian, deprived of his personal freedom, with no opportunity and no hope for a better future. What will they expect from him to do?

Israel is creating its own time bomb through self-destructive policies, and every American Jew who does not raise his or her voice in support of the peace process is complicit in the bloodshed that will inescapably unfold.

Every congressional candidate needs money to run for office and that is legitimate. But none should take a dime if it is conditioned upon supporting any political position that affects Israel one way or the other.

They must be educated, not bought, in order to become conscientious of the high stakes involved that will come from failure.

They must understand that Israel’s very existence rests on peace with the Palestinians.

They must act accordingly if they truly care not only about Israel but the Palestinians as well, because the Israelis’ and Palestinians’ futures are intertwined and neither can live in peace and security without the other.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Added 22.06.2018
It is now clear that the twenty-first century is ushering in a new world order. As uncertainty and instability associated with that process spread around the globe, the West has responded with either timidity or nostalgia for older forms of nationalism that failed in the past and certainly will not work now. Even to the most inveterate optimist, the G7 summit in Quebec earlier this month was proof that the geopolitical West is breaking up and losing its global significance, and that the great destroyer of that American-created and American-led order is none other than the US president. To be sure, Donald Trump is more a symptom than a cause of the West’s disintegration. But he is accelerating the process dramatically.
Added 20.06.2018
Sessions quoted a line written by the apostle Paul to a small community of Christians living in Rome around 55AD to defend the Department of Justice’s approach. He said: "I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order." Sessions used the Bible because one of the most vocal opponents of the crackdown on asylum cases has been the Catholic Church. It’s no surprise that Sessions appealed to Romans chapter 13 verse 1 in response: not only did he hope to undermine Catholic authority by using the Bible against them, he cited a statement so broad that one might use it to defend anything a government does, good or bad. Picture below St Paul writing his epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne, via Wikimedia Commons.
Added 19.06.2018
 

I find it exceptionally irritating when I hear liberals worry about whether Israel will be able to remain a "Jewish and Democratic State" if it retains control of occupied Palestinian lands.

Added 18.06.2018
Daniel Wagner: "My prediction Korean War will be formally ended, the peninsula will be denuclearised, and a lasting peace will be the result."
Added 14.06.2018
Extract: PiS [ the ruling Law and Justice party] has established the most significant addition to the Polish social safety net since 1989: the Family 500+ program. Launched in 2016, Family 500+ embodies the nationalism, traditional family values, and social consciousness that the PiS seeks to promote. The program pays families 500 złoty ($144) per month to provide care for a second or subsequent child...........The program has been enormously popular. Some 2.4 million families took advantage of it in the first two years. The benefit, equivalent to 40% of the minimum wage, has almost wiped out extreme poverty for children in Poland, reducing it by an estimated 70-80%........... Liberal pro-European politicians and policymakers are not convinced. They complain that such a generous family benefit will weaken work incentives and blow up the government budget. But initial evidence suggests that Family 500+ has actually increased economic activity. It has also reversed the post-communist decline in fertility, increased wages (particularly for women), and enabled families to buy school materials, take vacations, buy more clothes for their kids, and rely less on high-priced credit for basic household needs. And, thanks to rapid economic growth, the government deficit has steadily fallen, not grown.
Added 12.06.2018
The depths of hypocrisy of the Republican Party in supporting Trump’s meeting with the North Korean dictator in Singapore are hard to plumb. This is a party whose leading members adopted the Ostrich Foreign Policy Principle for decades. If you don’t like a country’s government or political and economic system, pretend it does not exist.
Added 12.06.2018
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken out against China’s strategy of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, including the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and electronic jammers, and, more recently, the landing of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft at Woody Island. There are, Mattis warned, “consequences to China ignoring the international community.” But what consequences?
Added 12.06.2018
With a general election approaching in September, Swedish voters are being warned that now it’s their turn to be targeted by Russian interference in the democratic process. According to Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is leading the country’s efforts to counter foreign-influence operations, such interference is very likely, and citizens should be on the lookout for disinformation and fake news.
Added 11.06.2018
Extract: "While the presidency has grown stronger over the years, during the Trump administration Congress has been timid and subordinate. That is because the leaders of the Republican Party – which controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate – are frightened of Trump’s base. They cannot afford to alienate the roughly 30-35% of Americans who passionately back him, ignore his personal transgressions, tolerate his degradation of the country’s civil discourse, favor his brutal treatment of immigrant families, and don’t mind that he is leaving the US almost friendless in the world."
Added 08.06.2018
Has North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un, made a strategic decision to trade away his nuclear program, or is he just engaged in another round of deceptive diplomacy, pretending that he will denuclearize in exchange for material benefits for his impoverished country? This is, perhaps, the key question in the run-up to the summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. Until then, no one will know the answer, perhaps not even Kim himself.
Added 07.06.2018
Some analysts even project that, before long, Facebook will hold more data on its users than any government. Meanwhile, it makes a lot of money from this data. Its advertising revenues came up to around US$40 billion in 2017 (up 50% from 2016). With Google, it holds an 84% market share in online advertising.
Added 05.06.2018
Roseanne Barr is an American comedian whose fictional TV character of the same name is a working-class Trump supporter. For those who remember the show “All in the Family,” she might be usefully compared to Archie Bunker, the crude proletarian patriarch from Queens, New York. Barr’s show was swiftly canceled late last month by the television network ABC, not for anything her “character” said in her show, but for a tweet in which she described Valerie Jarrett, an African-American former adviser to Barack Obama, as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
Added 04.06.2018
 

When Donald Trump was elected, I, like many others feared what his presidency might do to the country. A year and a half into his term in office, our concerns have been justified. 

Added 01.06.2018
Extract from the article: "While the West’s relative decline is almost inevitable, its economic dysfunction is not. Yet pessimism can be self-fulfilling. Why undertake difficult reforms if a dark future seems preordained? As a result, accepting and anxious pessimists tend to elect governments that duck difficult decisions (witness Germany’s grand coalition), while angry pessimists make matters worse (by voting for Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda or for Brexit, for example). It doesn’t have to be this way. As French President Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated, bold leaders can succeed with a message of hope, openness, and inclusion, and by promoting a vision of progress based on credible reforms."
Added 30.05.2018
It has been nearly two years since the United Kingdom narrowly voted in favor of leaving the European Union. As the march toward Brexit – formally set for the end of next March – proceeds, fundamental questions about the nature of the future UK-EU relationship remain unanswered. Instead, every time a tough decision must be made in the negotiations in Brussels, British ministers kick the can down the road, or even into the long grass. This is somewhat surprising. Apparently, none of the politicians and newspaper editors who plotted for years to get the UK out of the EU thought much about what would happen if their machinations succeeded.
Added 30.05.2018
Discussions are now underway to establish a system of joint deposit insurance for eurozone banks. Proponents of the scheme, with the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) taking the lead, point out that deposit insurance would avert the danger of a run on banks in times of crisis. While this argument is true, critics emphasize the disparity in risks, owing to the high share of bad loans on the balance sheets of banks in some countries. To address this risk disparity and move ahead with the plan, balance sheets will need to be cleaned up before considering the next step. While the share of bad loans for banks in the stable eurozone countries is just 2%, the most recently published International Monetary Fund statistics, from last April, show a share of 11% for Ireland, 16% for Italy, 40% for Cyprus, and 46% for Greece.
Added 29.05.2018
Trump’s decision cannot be justified by any breach of the agreement on Iran’s part. It is, rather, a return to the old, largely unsuccessful US policy of confrontation with Iran. The only difference this time is that the Trump administration seems determined to go to the brink of war – or even beyond – to get its way. If the administration has any plans for keeping Iran’s nuclear program in check in the absence of the nuclear deal, then it is keeping them a secret. Judging by some of the administration’s rhetoric, it would appear that airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities are on the table. But bombing would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not stop it. Would Trump then consider a massive ground war to occupy the country and topple the regime? We know all too well how that strategy worked the last time it was tried.
Added 28.05.2018
US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel his planned June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un represents a diplomatic coup for the North Korean leader, and an even bigger victory for China. In the space of just a few months, Kim’s image has gone from that of international pariah to that of thwarted peacemaker.
Added 23.05.2018
The good news is that the United States and China appear to have backed away from the precipice of a trade war. While vague in detail, a May 19 agreement defuses tension and commits to further negotiation. The bad news is that the framework of negotiations is flawed: A deal with any one country will do little to resolve America’s fundamental economic imbalances that have arisen in an interconnected world.
Added 21.05.2018
The cryptocurrency revolution, which started with bitcoin in 2009, claims to be inventing new kinds of money. There are now nearly 2,000 cryptocurrencies, and millions of people worldwide are excited by them. What accounts for this enthusiasm, which so far remains undampened by warnings that the revolution is a sham? One must bear in mind that attempts to reinvent money have a long history. As the sociologist Viviana Zelizer points out in her book The Social Meaning of Money: “Despite the commonsense idea that ‘a dollar is a dollar is a dollar,’ everywhere we look people are constantly creating different kinds of money.” Many of these innovations generate real excitement, at least for a while. As the medium of exchange throughout the world, money, in its various embodiments, is rich in mystique. We tend to measure people’s value by it. It sums things up like nothing else. And yet it may consist of nothing more than pieces of paper that just go round and round in circles of spending. So its value depends on belief and trust in those pieces of paper. One might call it faith.