J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement after Prime Minister Netanyahu's address yesterday at Bar-Ilan University:
J Street welcomes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s acceptance of the principle that a Palestinian state should exist alongside the state of Israel. We second the reaction of President Obama that this as an important step forward, and we welcome the President’s continued commitment to work toward a two-state solution and comprehensive, regional peace. While the Prime Minister’s acceptance of a Palestinian state is a welcome development, we regret his failure to acknowledge Israel’s commitment to a full settlement freeze on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem (including natural growth). President Obama has rightly insisted on a settlement freeze not as an end in itself, but as an essential step to preserve the possibility of a two-state solution. The President has made clear that both sides have obligations to fulfill – including the Palestinians’ obligation to address anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement and to reign in violent extremism. While we believe that Israel should immediately stop all settlement construction, we also believe, as the Prime Minister said, that negotiations must begin “immediately without preconditions” on a final status agreement that sets the borders of Israel and the new Palestinian state. To be successful, the United States must play an assertive leadership role in this effort and the talks must include other regional actors and international leaders. The coming weeks and months will be critical. President Obama should seize this moment to push for a comprehensive, regional agreement. The usual blame game and finger pointing on all sides cannot be allowed to bog down a serious attempt for resolution of the conflict as the window of opportunity for a successful two-state solution is rapidly closing. No one - not the Israelis, Palestinians, nor the United States - can let this moment pass.