A Response to ACWJ Chairman Jack Rosen

January 20th, 2011

Mr. Jack Rosen Chairman American Council for World Jewry Dear Mr. Rosen: I read with interest your letter expressing disagreement with J Street's campaign asking the Chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen to return campaign contributions from settlement funder Irving Moskowitz and to clarify her position on a two-state solution. Supporters of Israel today find ourselves in a difficult position. The two-state solution, the only way Israel can ever know security as a Jewish, democratic homeland, hangs by a thread. Negotiations to achieve a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbors are at a standstill. More and more young American supporters of Israel are choosing to avoid the issue of Israel altogether rather than engage and help complete the dream of Zionism. One of the reasons we find ourselves in this deeply unsustainable position is because of the expansion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories. Eight consecutive American administrations have called settlements an obstacle to peace. Large majorities of the Israeli public understand that a lasting diplomatic agreement with the Palestinians will require creating a Palestinian state in areas that Israeli settlers are taking for themselves, contravening Israel's own international commitments and its ally America's strong objection. Settlements are, in short, a moral and strategic failure on the part of the State of Israel and its supporters, in our opinion, cannot tire of restating this point. Given this backdrop, the fact that the Republican Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's top campaign contributor has made his number one charitable cause funding the settlement enterprise in the Occupied Territories is cause for great concern. We never questioned whether the contributions were legal, but whether or not they were appropriate given her position in the Congress. We believe they are not, and should be returned. You may believe that the Congresswoman is a strong supporter of Israel. I would agree with you that she is doing what she believes is best for the State of Israel and for America. That is not the question we are posing. We are asking whether her approach to Israel policy is going to make Israel more secure and meet vital American interests. We believe that the answer to this question is no. For instance, does Chairwoman Ros-Lehtinen even believe, as does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the two-state solution? If so, why has she not said so on the record? Does she support decades of American policy opposing settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace? Does she support Irving Moskowitz's housing projects for Israeli settlers in the hotspot neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem? A short look at the Congresswoman's public statements regarding Israel indicate a chief concern for what the Palestinians happen to be doing on any given day, a studious avoidance of the phrase "two-state solution," and a refusal to express any concern whatsoever for settlement expansion. We urge her to correct the record if we have misunderstood. We would gladly retract any statement to the contrary if we have misjudged her views. Not only does J Street and its 170,000 supporters have the moral right - which you deny in your letter -- to ask these questions of the Congresswoman, I would argue we have a moral obligation to demand real leadership from our Congressional representatives. Thank you for the opportunity to clarify J Street's views. Sincerely, Jeremy Ben-Ami President J Street