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Pro-Israel Jews Must Support Kerry
Thu, 03/27/2014 - 20:00
Special To The Jewish Week
Asher Mayerson
Asher Mayerson

The fulfillment of the Zionist dream of a Jewish homeland and democratic state may rest on the actions taken by the American pro-Israel community over the coming weeks.

The question is whether the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and the rest of the pro-Israel community will express vocal support for Secretary of State John Kerry as he helps the parties commit to necessary compromises? Or will its silence – or outright opposition – jeopardize a golden opportunity at achieving peace?

It was encouraging to see that, just hours into the recent AIPAC Policy Conference, incoming AIPAC President Robert Cohen expressed strong support for Secretary Kerry and the peace process: “As pro-Israel Americans, we thank [Secretary Kerry] for his personal investment of time, energy, and leadership to find a path towards peace between Israel and the Palestinians.” AIPAC’s close friends and allies, such as former Senator Joe Lieberman, delivered similar messages.

But how did the rank and file react? Their response was not encouraging.

While they roared in support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s denunciations of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, conference delegates were almost silent when he laid out the immense benefits of peace. When Bibi talked about the work ahead necessary “to forge a durable peace,” he chastised the crowd. “You can clap,” he said. And just a few hours earlier, legendary Israeli entrepreneur Yossi Vardi scolded the audience: “You can have a little more applause for the work Kerry is doing.”

Later that day, AIPAC activists took to the Hill with Secretary Kerry’s work on Israeli-Palestinian peace as a core part of their prescribed lobbying agenda. But in the several lobby meetings that I attended, the peace process went almost unmentioned.

We’ve seen these dynamics before. While many pro-Israel organizations were publicly supportive of the Oslo Accords in the 1990s, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was so frustrated with the lack of real support from the American pro-Israel community that he rebuked them publicly. What Rabin needed was a pro-Israel lobby that would help build support in Congress for Israeli leaders as they make difficult choices in the name of peace, but the pro-Israel community did not deliver.

Hoping that this time would be different, Secretary Kerry called on the American pro-Israel community to join the “Great Constituency for Peace.” But despite the exhortations of their leaders and allies, it seems that AIPAC’s supporters have yet to answer Secretary Kerry’s call.

In his speech to AIPAC, Secretary Kerry hinted at some of the compromises that his soon-to-be released framework agreement will entail, including “a resolution that finally allows Jerusalem to live up to its name as the City of Peace.” When it becomes clear that the United States is supporting difficult but necessary compromises, that moment will test the pro-Israel community like never before.

Segments of the pro-Israel community will seek to tank negotiations. They will claim that Jerusalem can never be divided or that the pre-1967 borders are indefensible.

As pro-Israel activists, we must work to build support for those compromises so that our voices are the ones heard by Members of Congress and the Obama Administration.

The relevant question for our community is no longer whether we support a two-state solution; rather, we now have to ask ourselves whether we support the compromises necessary to make two-states a reality. J Street and J Street U activists are coming by the thousands to Town Halls across the country to voice their support for the tough compromises necessary for a politically viable two-state agreement. If the rest of the pro-Israel community is serious about two states, then we should expect similar expressions of support from them.

So, what message will Policy Conference delegates deliver to their communities? Will they voice strong support for these negotiations in their synagogues, Hillels and AIPAC chapters, or will they tacitly aid in their failure through silence? With Israel’s Jewish and democratic future on the line, the answers to these questions could not be more important.

Asher Mayerson has served as President of Dartmouth College Hillel and is the Northeast Representative on the J Street U National Student Board.

AIPAC, Asher Mayerson, Bibi, J Street, J Street U, Kerry

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What unadulterated nonsense. I'm not a neo-con or a republican. I voted for Obama once and then abstained. He is clueless on foreign policy and clawless on domestic issues. Kerry assures pro-Israel Jews that what happened in Gaza won't happen in the West Bank. How does he hope to guarantee this? He wants Israel to renounce its identity as a Jewish Homeland in order to insure "peace" with leaders who promise to drive the Jews into the sea. I'm tired of an administration that is absolutely a teddy bear against Russia, China, N. Korea, Iran, Pakistan, etc., but a bully against Israel. I know that won't happen, but I would love to see American Jews stand up to Obama/Kerry and tell them off.

So why Israel shouldn't decide for the US on her policy towards Iran, Russia and China? I think that US policy should be examined and approved in Jerusalem.... if you are convinced that Kerry is the one who to tell the Israelis what their policy toward the PA, Iran and others should be.
So, give me a break. At Least if America had some realistic leadership in Washington .....

"What Rabin needed was a pro-Israel lobby that would help build support in Congress for Israeli leaders as they make difficult choices in the name of peace, but the pro-Israel community did not deliver."

American senators support Israel the way that it is right now. They don't feel Israel should give back one iota of land. They also voted to recognize that Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel as do all people that are truly Pro-Israel

John Kerry and the man he works for haven't a clue when it comes to the very real threats to World peace that are present in our world. Israelis would do well to keep their own council and rely a lot less on phantom support from the Great Appeasers. You want more support for Isreal then dump these isolationist know-nothings.

I think a lot more humility should be shown by American Jews who love Israel and want to support her. I believe that Jewish citizens of Israel are fully capable, and in the best position to make good policy choices for the future of their country. They live there. Their lives are on the line if something goes wrong. 'Self determination' ... to which so many liberals give lip-service ... happens when Israelis decide for Israel. John Kerry is a fine man, but I would hardly appoint him captain of the ship guiding Jews in Israel to a peaceful harbor. Some Americans, not so friendly to the Jewish people, often speak about Israel pushing the US into trouble. That's anti-semitic nonsense, of course, but generally, people don't like foreigners pressuring them into actions they believe are not in their nations best interests. I believe Jewish Americans should trust the people of Israel and their elected leaders to make peace with their neighbors, when and if it is possible.

I have never heard a Jew say that he/she wants war with the Arabs. Never. I have heard many, many times Arabs scream that killing Jews is Allah's work. That is the difficult reality I think we all should try to understand and prepare for. Averting our eyes away from Arab hatred of Israel, will not make it go away and is dangerous to Israel's future. There are numerous obvious reasons why 'Israeli compromise' at this time in history should be undertaken with extreme, extreme caution - if at all. 1) The entire Arab world is in chaos, with hundreds of thousands of killings in the Middle East coming at the hands of other Arabs. What do you think they would do to Jews if given a chance? 2) Not long ago Israel withdrew entirely from the Territory of Gaza, and that compromise did not buy them a day of peace. Instead, thousands of rockets were launched from Gaza into Israel, terrorizing an entire population, and eventually lead to another war. So what kind of 'compromise' is Mayerson talking about? 3) There are absolutely no meaningful indications to suggest that the majority of Arabs accept Israel and want peace. Despite Netanyahu's frequent pleas for Abbas to declare Israel a Jewish nation, he won't do it! Astounding!
I continue to believe that Israel should negotiate in good faith, but denying reality and wishful thinking is not a strategy Jews should pursue.