WASHINGTON – J Street, an organization founded to lobby for a two-state solution
to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has joined the major leagues with its
conference this week in Washington.
For years, J Street has fought off a
liberal reputation in order to gain a seat at the table with realists, tasked
with the unfortunate job of ironing out stubborn details for a final-status
agreement that can attain real peace for Israel in exchange for land.
sticking to their principal goal while reaffirming their commitment to Israel’s
Jewish identity – and by condemning activists on the sidelines of their
organization who protest the IDF and the legitimacy of Israel itself – J Street
has become an important voice at an opportune time, speaking effectively in sync
with Secretary of State John Kerry as he presses for an ultimate peace
“There is no contradiction between being progressive and being a
supporter of Israel. None,” US Vice President Joseph Biden told the J Street
audience to applause.
But opening the conference, Justice Minister Tzipi
Livni told the crowd not to abandon Israel’s security in pursuit of peace – and
not to equate the crimes of suicide bombers and Hamas operatives with the
“accidental” acts of IDF soldiers.
“I don’t ask the world to turn a blind
eye on our military actions. I ask them to judge us exactly according to their
values,” Livni said.
She, too, received ample applause for what Jewish
World journalists billed as a “tough love” speech.
At its gala dinner on
Monday night, US special envoy to the peace process Martin Indyk said the US
wanted nothing less than a final-status agreement, not an interim deal, that
would end the conflict for good. And he warned that, without the establishment
of a Palestinian state, Israel would soon face a stark choice between a
democratic future and a Jewish one.
It was the first time, in a short
history only four conferences long, that J Street heard from such high-level
speakers as the vice president of the United States and the US ambassador to an
active, prioritized peace process. For their loyal followers, those engagements
were a sign that years of work are starting to pay off, that their cause is
historic and and that their moment may have finally arrived.
That was the
sense at the conference: That idealist slogans are well and good, but that an
opportunity such as the talks that are now under way requires a serious
political push that shows the breadth of their support and a serious
appreciation for the sacrifices required of both sides.
The primary task
of the organization now is the launching of a $1 million campaign to mobilize
Americans in support of a two-state solution.
Such success will
legitimize J Street’s work.