The Jerusalem Gambit, The Presidents Conference And Peter Beinart
05/17/2010 - 15:29
James Besser

The more I think about it, the more I see why left-of-center pro-Israel groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now are bouncing off the walls about last week's ad on Jerusalem by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

The ad and the thinking behind it may also be good evocations of what Peter Beinart is talking about in his current, hugely controversial essay in the New York Review of Books entitled “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment.” That establishment, ostensibly representing a Jewish majority that still tilts to the progressive side, is being adroitly pulled to the right – fueling, in Beinart's view, a growing estrangement, particularly among the young, from Israel.

By invoking Jerusalem in an emotional context, by repeating the unchallengeable fact that the city is central to Judaism and then coupling that to what seems like an absolutist position that goes against the core assumptions of all recent Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the Presidents Conference ad seemed to be staking out a political, not a moral or religious, position on negotiations that probably a majority of American Jews would reject.

It's one thing to say Jerusalem should be Israel's eternal capital, and argue against a re-division of the city; I don't hear many Jews arguing for a return of the Mandelbaum Gate.

It's another thing to repudiate 17 years of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that assume at least a nominal compromise on a city that now encompasses much more territory than it did before 1967.

Isn't that what the Presidents Conference is doing when it says in the ad “There are not two Jerusalems. There is only one Jerusalem. For us, Jerusalem is not subject to compromis?”

Take Jerusalem out of the peace process and there is no peace process. 

Does the Presidents Conference now reject the position of previous Israeli governments that Jerusalem is a key “final status” issue, to be decided by the two sides who will have to -dare I say it ? - compromise?

When you say “no compromise,” that's sure what it sounds like.

Is that a position advocated by all Presidents Conference member organizations? I have a hard time believing that the Reform movement, among others, sees Jerusalem as something that must not even be talked about – although when I asked him, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, refused to criticize the Jerusalem ad.

It seems particularly cynical to put at the center of the ad the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin – the Israeli leader most responsible for structuring a peace paradigm that sees Jerusalem as one of the critical “final status” issues that must be part of any eventual Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

The ad lauds efforts to force the State Department to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem – ignoring the fact Rabin urged pro-Israel groups here not to press for the legislation.


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Re. Foxman's quote in the Forward, "He added that J Street’s views are accepted by many in Israel and there is no reason they should not be part of the discussion in the U.S."__One wonders what 'many' means? One might further wonder what happened to the vibrant 'peace camp' in Israel that supported Shalom Akshav or here known as Peace Now? Most know of the similarity between J Street and Peace Now. Peace Now has morphed into J Street but in fact J Street is more sinister. Please consider that the Israeli version, Shalom Akshav folded up their tents when they realized the dream of Palestinian partners for peace was in fact just a dream. The Intifadah became every Israeli's nightmare. 99% of American tourists stopped traveling to Israel because it was just too dangerous.__Naïve American Jews sit on their couches pontificating about peace without a clue of today's reality. That is the difference between the American and Jewish left. It's is called reality. Israeli Jews got a large dose while American Jews enjoyed the good life, smug in their political correctness. I find such ignorance shameful.__J Street disgustingly will lobby our congress against supporting Israel based on their naïve understanding of how to achieve peace. In my mind, J Street is a greater threat to Israel's existence than any current Palestinian organization. __No Palistinian org can seriously erode U.S. foreign policy support but J Street is sure doing it. __Wake up and smell the bacon, it actually stinks! The Israelis have, why not you?