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Jeremy Ben Ami, who runs the J-Street lobby, "explained" his version of being pro-Israel in the Washington Post (see J-Street:Myths about Myths about being pro-Israel. Shmuel Rosner posted a reasonable rejoinder in Slate (See my comments at What is pro Israel?). The bottom line about any lobby group or political position is what they do, what activities they undertake and not what slogans they use.

The "Pro-Israel" slogan was possibly first adopted by Brit Tsedek, as a device for establishing that they are "Jew-Friendly" but not Zionist. If J-Street means by this slogan that they are not Zionist, but "recognize Israel's right to exist" then they aren't a Zionist lobby. The most revealing aspect of Ben-Ami's article perhaps, was his "revelation" that not all Jews support Israel, and that the solidly pro-Israel "Jewish lobby" is a myth. Is that supposed to be a rationale for a different sort of "pro-Israel" lobby? Hardly. It could be the rationale for a Jewish anti-Zionist lobby.

As its initial offering, J-Street urges American Jews to make President Bush give Israel a "gift" of greater US involvement in Middle East peace negotiations for its 60th anniversary. I am all for peace and peace negotiations, but that is the business of a peace lobby, not an Israel lobby or a pro-Israel lobby. Still, Zionism has always sought peace, and a peace program should also be part of a comprehensive "pro-Israel" program. Let's see if we can define a pro-Israel US package that a broad spectrum of American Jews can get behind, and let's see if we can get BOTH AIPAC and J-Street solidly behind this program. What would be in this package, that would advance peace, and at the same time provide solid support for Israel and for moderate Palestinians who really want a workable two state solution? We cannot go into every detail and nuance, but here are a few major suggestions, all of which have hitherto been glaring omissions in US policy.

Encouraging Dialog and Discouraging Incitement - As Ben-Ami points out, being pro-Israel does not necessarily mean punishing Palestinians. Palestinians willing to engage in cooperative economic projects with Israel should be richly rewarded with directed economic incentives. Part of the US and EU subsidy that is currently spent on paying the salaries of officials of the Gaza government, part of the military aid to Egypt and part of the military aid to Israel should be redirected to this program. On the other hand, aid should be conditional on eliminating incitement, verbal support and approval for terrorism and "martyrs" - in Arabic and in English. Terrorists must be called terrorists. Aid should also be conditional on progress in disarming and eliminating the Islamic Jihad and Hamas terrorists in the West Bank, where Fatah presumably has control. Dialog and cooperative programs are poison for the extremists and that is why they are so anxious to advance "Israel Boycott" programs. If the US is going to be aiding the Fatah, no Palestinian organization or government NGO should be advocating Israel boycotts. That includes the Palestinian Labor federation, which has played a leading role in boycott advocacy. Boycotts and peace don't mix.

Engaging Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah - As long as Iran and its satellite organizations are intent on destroying Israel, Lebanon and other US allies in the Middle East, they constitute a clear and present danger. The only basis for engagement with Hamas is revision of the Hamas charter to eliminate its genocidal program, acceptance, at least, of the Arab peace initiative, and reversal of the June 2006 coup. Fatah and Mahmoud Abbas and the PLO are the recognized peace partners and nothing must be done to undermine their position. Hezbollah must be disarmed in according with UN Security Council Resolution 1559. Iran must give up its nuclear program and pledge to support the Arab peace initiative and recognize Israel's right to exist. Those are legitimate bases for engagement. If the engagement fails, it must be understood that peace can never be achieved as long as Hamas is in power and declares itself to be opposed to peace. That is common sense. Therefore, the road to peace lies through broad support for elimination of Hamas control of Gaza and democratic elections that involve only those parties who are pledged to a peaceful solution.

Solving the Palestinian refugee problem- Each year, the United States and European countries contribute to the perpetuation and exacerbation of the number one obstacle to peace, the UNRWA Palestinian refugee program, which separates Palestinian Arab refugees from all other refugees in the world. Over half a billion dollars are spent each year to keep refugees in camps and in a hopeless situation, "pending their return to Palestine...." It is time for a bold US initiative that will end the UNRWA farce and find homes and a future for Arab Palestinian refugees.

Active US involvement in a solution - "Involvement" doesn't just mean photo-ops, shuttle diplomacy and some foreign aid bribes. As long as any Palestinian state is in danger, as is Lebanon, of becoming a vassal of Iran and a base for terror, any peace will have to be guaranteed by an international force "with teeth" led by the United States, that undertakes to ensure there will be no more terror. Israel should not have to tolerate a repeat of the fiasco of the violence that erupted in 2000, when the US restrained Israel from acting to restore peace after the US-sponsored peace process collapsed. When the US essentially reneged on its guarantee, it forfeited its right to pressure Israel into making concessions and taking risks. Nobody should take risks if they are not allowed to fix the problem created when the gamble fails.

This is clearly a quite different set of proposals than the ones that might be made by either AIPAC or its rival J-Street. J-Street favors legitimizing Hamas and Iran regardless of their positions, and aiding Palestinians regardless of incitement and making Israeli concessions regardless of the risk. AIPAC seems to be opposed to peace moves and aid to Palestinians because they fear that a Palestinian state would become a terror state. The solution is a package of support and peace activism that makes peace possible by eliminating the refugee problem and the Hamas, which are the major obstacles to peace, and by ensuring that the Palestinian state would not be a terror state, and providing the means to deal with it if it is. If we cannot eliminate the Hamas or change their politics, if we cannot change Iranian policies and if we cannot solve the refugee problem, there cannot be peace. If the Palestinian authority is unwilling to control incitement, and uses American aid to generate more anti-Israel propaganda, they are not a peace partner. If the US is only willing for Israel to "take risks for peace" but is unwilling to take risks in guaranteeing a solution, they cannot play a leading role in peace negotiations.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2008. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000543.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 1 Comment

isseroff's positions are identical to aipac:
aipac has supported over the years several resolution and specific appropriations that commit to peace dialogue and such-albeit in this realm the emphasis has been on insuring israel's military superioty
AIPAC has supported and advocated for resolutions and sanction legislation in attempt to modify iranian and hamas behavior
AIPAC has help support rep kirk's efforts to reform unrwa and the deplorable institutionilazation of the refugee problem
although aipac did support sanction legislation against the pa that would have in effect created a mechanism to end such aid-the ultimate legislation was less restictive and is meant to modify the kleptocratic pa

avi mlotek, Thursday, May 15th

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