Daniel Levy was part of the original group that conceived of J Street. He is Israeli and worked for the Israeli government as part of the team negotiating with the Palestinians in the period after Camp David in 2000-2001, including at Taba. Prior to that, he was a part of the negotiating team in the mid-1990’s during his Israeli Defense Forces service, under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
Levy has been a life-long Zionist, having made aliyah at age 23 after having been elected president of the World Union of Jewish Students. He has worked passionately to secure Israel’s future through a two-state solution for nearly twenty years.
He believes that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires recognition that the dream of the Jewish people for a home of their own was realized in 1948 by a war , one result of which was the creation of the Palestinian refugee crisis.
Levy’s remarks have been misreported.
In an answer to a question on a panel he appeared on in Doha, Qatar, Levy argued in favor of progressive Zionism. He did not call Israel’s creation “an act that was wrong.” He believes that the events that led to the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem included acts that were wrong. These acts took place against the background of a war for the survival of the nascent state of Israel just three years after the end of the Holocaust.
Levy went on to say that he sees no reason why Palestinians would agree with his response to that history, “I don’t expect Palestinians to think that,” he said. Levy asks hard and challenging questions of all sides while ultimately advocating for a coalition for ending the conflict.
Right-wing bloggers also took Levy’s words out of context in 2011, after he spoke on a plenary at J Street’s second national conference. They claimed that Levy had argued that “Israel really ain’t a very good idea,” when in fact, he had made the opposite case.
Levy’s argument was against the cynical premise that Israel can never be accepted by its neighbors in the Middle East, and therefore, it is condemned forever to “live by the sword.” Dismissing this myth, Levy said that those who “believe Israel can live in that space” are the “real embracers of the idea of Israel.” He argued that there is hope, that through a two-state resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians, Israel can reach peace agreements with its neighbors and achieve long-term peace and security.
The accusations against Levy were debunked by New Republic writer Jonathan Chait, who said:
“The quote here is making the opposite of the point Kristol suggests. Levy is arguing that if his opponent’s premise is true, then Israel is not a good idea. He is making that point in order to discredit his opponents’ premise. This is a very common form of argumentation: if we believe A, then we must believe B, and since B is false, we shouldn’t believe A. For Kristol to cite such an argument as evidence the speaker believes B is… completely unsurprising actually.”