The preamble to the letter to President Obama that J Street activists lobbied their Capitol Hill representatives to sign on Tuesday purports to take to task those who inject partisan politics into the effort to forge a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
The “Dear Colleague” warns that “broad and bipartisan support” for American leadership toward a two-state solution is “under unprecedented attack by those seeking to politicize the issue.”
The letter continues: “In recent months, politicians on the national stage have said that the United States should not take a leadership role in the peace process, and even denied the existence of Palestinians as a people.” The text of the letter to Obama itself makes the same point.
So who is it that denied the existence of the Palestinians as a people? That would be Newt Gingrich, candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. So who would that be launching a partisan political attack? That would be J Street.
For all that the lobby spent its multi-day annual conference urging that the peace process not be turned into a partisan issue, the forum – like the letter to Obama – itself was replete with partisan jabs.
The three Congressmen sponsoring the letter are all Democrats, and the plenary session dealing with the US role in the peace process featured two speakers from the Obama administration, a former member of the Obama administration and a peace process expert who supported the Obama campaign, with no GOP representatives to be found.
At that session, White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett received the biggest applause when listing the administration’s policies on issues deeply intertwined with party affiliation.
More than anything she said on Israel, Iran or the peace process, her loudest applause lines were two examples of domestic politics strongly embraced by Democrats, which she phrased as Obama implementing his vision of change: “Change is passing comprehensive healthcare reform,” and “Change is protecting a woman’s right to make her own choices about her own health.”
After the administration speeches, a panel conversation was held on how to implement a peace agreement. J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami pointed to the possibility of the next administration presenting its own framework for a peace accord, and referred to them as the “Obama parameters,” before adding, “We can call them the Romney parameters, but it’s hard to imagine.”
The lack of Republican affinity was further made clear at a panel on the Jewish vote in 2012. One member of the audience who rose to ask a question began by noting, “I’m a Jewish Republican and I come in peace.”
His remark received kind laughter from the crowd, but that he felt moved to present such a disclaimer is more than telling.
- Hilary Leila Krieger