The policies of the PA’s prospective Fatah-Hamas government towards Israel
should be tested before it is condemned, J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami said on
Thursday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
Adopting a strategy
that would avoid any “precipitous” policies could turn out to be beneficial for
the peace process, he said.
J Street leaders to meet Peres, Abbas
Knesset caucus to focus on relations with American Jews
“Jumping out to say either this is a terrible
thing or good thing is in our opinion not the wisest move, and the real question
is, what this new alignment really going to stand for and what is it going to
do, and that we don’t know,” he said.
“There are lot more questions than
answers even today after the signing [in Cairo]. Even the parties have more
questions than answers: Who is going to be prime minister? What role does
[current Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam] Fayyad play? Who really
controls the security forces? Are they going to cooperate with the Israel
Defense Forces?” In light of comments such as Hamas Prime Minister Ismail
Haniyeh this week calling al- Qaida’s Osama bin Laden a “holy warrior” and
condemning his killing by the US, the Post asked Ben-Ami why he thought Hamas
might be willing to change its tune towards Israel anytime soon.
condemn unequally Haniyeh and his remarks,” he answered. “No question this was a
horrible way to react and it shows a real serious flaw in one’s worldview and
personality, but the bottom line remains, if Israel wants peace and security it
must reach a resolution of the conflict with its enemies.”
Ben-Ami attended a stormy session of a Knesset committee which was entirely
devoted to J Street. During the discussion, lawmakers criticized the
organization. MK Danny Danon of the Likud called J Street the “Neturei Karta of
the radical left,” referring to a zealous Haredi group known for burning Israeli
flags and participating in Holocaustdenial conferences in Iran.
he was offended by such statement, Ben-Ami said he’s gotten used to
criticism. Politics is a “blood sport,” he said.
One recent attack
in the media, however, plainly did rankle with him.
Last week, Yisrael
Hayom, the newspaper owned by US billionaire Sheldon Adelson, published a story
that alleged that he had scheduled a meeting with PA President Mahmoud Abbas in
Ramallah on Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Ben-Ami lashed out at the
right-leaning newspaper saying the date was briefly considered months in advance
but that the minute he realized it fell on Holocaust Remembrance Day it was
changed. In any case, Ben-Ami said, no such meeting in Ramallah was ever set up,
a point he had said he had told Yisrael Hayom when it called to ask. The
newspaper called up, he said, “we say it’s not true, and [they] don’t even
report what we said,” he fumed.
Looking forward towards the next six
months, Ben-Ami, like most other observers, believes the scheduled elections in
the PA and Egypt, and talk of recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United
Nations in the fall will be a critical period for Israel and the region. He
urged Jerusalem to get out ahead of events by introducing its own peace
“The most important thing I would say as a friend of Israel
and as family of Israel is that it’s time to wake up,” he said. “It seems life
is going on with no sense in the general public of how critical the next six
months are. It’s a moment that all Jews everywhere, here and abroad, should be
engaged and really understand what the moment is, what the paths of choice are.
We can stay with the status quo and clutch at security in a certain way, or take
risks accepting potential dangers as well. It’s a difficult
Yisrael Hayom spokesman Dror Shavit, in response to Ben-Ami’s
accusations, said “The report of the planned meeting between [J Street’s]
representatives and Abbas on Holocaust Remembrance Day was based on the schedule
of the organization itself and was published prior to Holocaust Remembrance Day.
It’s good to hear they came to their senses and didn’t meet Abbas on Holocaust