A J Street Conversation | A Path Forward: Creating a Political Horizon for Israel-Palestine

June 14, 2024

Over seven months since October 7th, J Street continues to call for the return of the hostages, increased humanitarian aid in Gaza, and an end to the war. Despite the daily turmoil, we hold onto hope for a secure and peaceful future for Israel-Palestine.

At a J Street event at Beth Emet The Free Synagogue in Evantston, IL, Dr. Debra Shushan, J Street Director of Policy, was joined by Special Guest Congressman Sean Casten (IL-6) and Mideast policy experts representing Israeli, Palestinian and Arab perspectives and discussed:

  • Five steps to achieve regional security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians, recommended by a recent J Street Policy Expert Symposium.
  • Potential enablers and spoilers on the path forward.
  • How the crisis plays out in Congress for Representative Casten.
  • What we in the American Jewish community can do to take action and make a difference.
  • Connect with other members of the Chicago community who care about this issue


Dr. Debra Shushan, Director of Policy-J Street

Dr. Debra Shushan is the founding Director of the J Street Policy Center, where she also serves as scholar-in-residence, author, public speaker, and manager of congressional education. Prior to joining J Street, Dr. Shushan honed her expertise in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as Director of Policy and Government Relations at Americans for Peace Now, and in academic roles at the College of William and Mary and the Georgetown University School of Foreign Policy in Doha, Qatar. Dr. Shushan is a former Marshall Scholar, Truman Scholar, and Yale World Fellow, and is a graduate of Harvard University (BA), Oxford University (MPhil) and Yale University (PhD).

Rep. Sean Casten, Illinois 6th District

Representing Illinois’ Cook and DuPage counties, Sean Casten became the first Democrat to represent his district in seventy years. One of only a few scientists in the House, Casten is a powerful voice warning about climate change as a member of the Science, Space & Technology and Financial Services Committees.

Rep. Casten is also a strong proponent of the U.S. – Israel relationship and believes the U.S. should work with Israelis and Palestinians to achieve long-term peace through a two-state solution. He traveled with J Street on Congressional Delegations to Israel in 2022 and 2024. He has supported many J Street legislative priorities and signed over a dozen J Street-supported letters since October 7 calling for the release of hostages, a surge of humanitarian aid into Gaza, adherence by Israel to international humanitarian law, and greater oversight of US arms exports to Israel by the Biden administration.

Farah Bdour, John Lewis Peace Fellow, USIP

Farah Bdour is a political analyst and specialist in conflict resolution and mediation who worked on peace building efforts among policy makers and youth organizations. She is the director of a Jordanian thinktank based in Amman that provides policy analysis and recommendations to the strategic community, both in Jordan and abroad. Serves as an advisor for number of governmental agencies on promoting people-to-people peacebuilding programs, dialogue and reconciliation.

Arie M. Kacowicz, Chaim Weizmann Chair in International Relations, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

He is the author and editor of ten books, including his most recent volume The Unintended Consequences of Peace: Peaceful Borders and Illicit Transnational Flows (Cambridge University Press, 2021), written in collaboration with Exequiel Lacovksy, Keren Sasson, and Daniel F. Wajner. His areas of interests include theories of international relations, peace studies, globalization and governance, international relations of Latin America, and peace negotiations in the context of the Middle East.

Kacowicz holds a PhD in political science from Princeton University.