A step in the right direction

September 24th, 2009

I imagine you've been closely following Israel and Middle East-related events during this week's United Nations General Assembly - and perhaps you're wondering what to make of them.

I can tell you that J Street welcomed both yesterday's trilateral meeting and President Obama's remarks to the GA today as important restatements of the President's continued personal commitment to ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and his exceptionally balanced and pragmatic approach.

A number of J Street supporters have asked me in the past few hours both what happened to the settlement freeze and whether the events of the past 48 hours amounted to anything more than a "photo op."

I've urged them to take another look.  We are actually very pleased to see the President put the focus on final status issues, and, in fact, view the week's events as a sophisticated pivot by the White House from debating the minutiae of settlement construction to addressing the core issues at the heart of the conflict.

J Street remains committed to a full freeze of Israeli settlement activity, along with, as the President has stressed, an end to Palestinian incitement and steps by Arab nations toward normalization.   And the President got it exactly right when he said the U.S. does not "accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements."

However, we think it is far better that, while the U.S. maintains its firm opposition to settlement expansion without compromising, it doesn't allow an impasse on that issue to prevent a move to discussion of crucial final status issues.

We have no more time to waste talking about talking.  It is time to get to work, to roll up sleeves, and to put the tough issues on the table - with serious U.S. engagement and leadership.  And that's where I think we're headed.

For a more detailed take on the day's events, I commend to you Daniel Levy's article today in Foreign Policy.   I think he's got it exactly right.

Feel free to let me know what you think!  I hope to see you in one month at our Conference, where we'll be digging into these issues in a lot more depth.  Maybe there will even be good news by then about the re-launch of final status talks.