Yacimovich at J Street conference: Netanyahu should not be paranoid or naive on Iran threat

Labor leader says Obama deserves Israel's full support for his efforts on Iran and on the peace process.

Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich 370 (photo credit: Artiom Degel)
Labor leader Shelly Yacimovich 370
(photo credit: Artiom Degel)
WASHINGTON – Amid buzz ahead of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s speech at the UN and his meeting with US President Barack Obama, top Israeli officials appeared at the annual conference for J Street, an activist organization founded to lobby for a two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.
The start of this year’s conference in the US capital came after major speeches from Obama and PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the United Nations highlighted the need for a final-status agreement.
J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told The Jerusalem Post that he hopes Netanyahu, in his speech to the UN General Assembly, shows that “his government and he is indeed serious” about forging peace.
“I don’t believe in the concept of ‘last chance,’” Ben-Ami said, after Abbas ended his speech last week on the notion that the current talks could be the last round. However, “I think it’s the last chance before we plunge over this particular cliff.”
“If there isn’t an agreement now, I worry that the PA can’t sustain... and that other elements might take control,” Ben-Ami added, warning of another intifada and further bloodshed in the absence of a peace accord.
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, chief negotiator for Israel in the current round of peace talks, opened the conference Saturday night, pressing J Street to fight to codify Israel’s security in a negotiated settlement.
“In your quest for peace, don’t abandon Israel’s security needs,” Livni said. “We live in a tough neighborhood, and even after a peace agreement is reached, it will be and remain a tough neighborhood.”
But Livni said that peace with the Palestinians “can change the situation in the entire region,” creating new alliances against “extreme fundamentalist Islam” that Arab governments, too, fear as a destabilizing force.
In a passionate portion of the speech, Livni told the organization, which has a reputation of liberalism, that “part of being Jewish” is disagreeing.
“But I believe that there is one thing we should be united behind: the IDF,” Livni said.
“There is a process of delegitimization against Israel that focuses on our soldiers in order to undermine our ability to defend ourselves.”
“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 added. “I would not accept any comparison between terrorists who are killing children in school and Israeli soldiers, and you should not accept this kind of comparison.”
Shelly Yacimovich, leader of the Labor Party, told the J Street Conference audience of roughly 3,000 on Sunday that peace was an imperative of the Netanyahu government, and warned the Israeli leader to be neither “naïve nor paranoid” over the Iranian threat.
She said that “President Obama deserves our full support for his efforts on Iran, as well as for his determination to try and achieve a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.”
“To Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is now on his way to Washington, I say, move ahead... for the sake of Israel’s future,” Yacimovich said, calling the moment a “unique political opportunity.”
“Making peace is in Israel’s best interest. It’s in our strategic interest, our economic interest, and our moral interest,” Yacimovich continued.
“The chaos across the Middle East is not a good reason to give up on making peace with the Palestinians.”
Asked about a new push from J Street to get Congress to pass a resolution supporting the peace process, Ben-Ami noted that, in the midst of chaos surrounding a government shutdown, a resolution hit the floor of the House of Representatives on Friday matching a similar draft in the Senate.
“The general idea of both is to demonstrate that there is congressional support for the president’s vision and for John Kerry’s efforts, and specifically to say that Congress will do whatever it can to help these efforts to achieve a two-state solution,” Ben-Ami said.
The resolution was brought forth by US Reps. Jan Schakowsky, Jerrold Nadler and Henry Waxman.