J Street: At Obama’s Table

July 13, 2009

Check out J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami’s message to J Street supporters after he joined other Jewish American leaders for a meeting with President Obama:

I just left an extraordinary meeting with President Barack Obama, which
he called to meet with the leadership of the American Jewish community.

A dozen organizations – including J Street – were at the table.     

It was made clear to the President and
his team the strong support that exists among American Jews and the
broader public for a strong push to end the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict, for a two-state solution, and for a regional and
comprehensive approach to the peace process.

The President said such a resolution
was in Israel’s interests. In the interests of the Palestinian people.
And clearly in the interests of the United States.

Afterward, the President expressed his gratitude, as did many of his aides, for our attendance.

You should feel great. After little more than a year – and through your online advocacy and donations – J Street has arrived.
We are your political voice when it comes to Israel and the Middle East
– representing you in Washington and in the national political debate.

In recent days, much has been made in Jewish media of supposed concerns and reservations in the Jewish community about President Obama and his approach to the Middle East.

And today I had the opportunity to take
our message of support directly to the White House – that there’s a big
difference between the views expressed by a vocal minority on behalf of
the Jewish community – and what that community really thinks and

First, let me assure you that the
President couldn’t have been clearer: making progress towards peace in
the Middle East is a fundamental American interest – and essential to
Israel’s security and stability.

He framed the issue as a strategic
challenge in which the U.S. must pursue numerous goals simultaneously –
ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ensuring Israel’s security,
dealing with Iran, and addressing the legacy of anti-American sentiment
in the region.

He recognized that the United States
isn’t going to see eye-to-eye with either the Israelis or the other
parties in the region on every issue.  When some Jewish leaders argued
(as they did in the meeting) that progress toward peace is only made
when there is no daylight between Israel and the United States, the
President responded correctly that for eight years – when there was no
daylight between us and Israel – there was no progress toward peace.
The hard decisions weren’t made on either side – and the prospects for
peace only diminished.

In talking to The New York Times, I described the President’s approach as “pushing while hugging”
– his way of helping all parties reflect on whether their actions are
really advancing their interests or not.  Further Israeli expansion of
settlements on the West Bank, and ongoing incitement against Israel in
the Palestinian Authority, are good examples of actions that he sees as
setting the process back.

To the extent that he’s asking for hard
steps from the Israelis on issues like settlements, he’s going to be
equally clear in what he’s asking of the Palestinians and Arabs. To
those who say he’s being tougher on one side or the other, he maintains
that he is taking a balanced approach and believes that pressure on
both sides will be needed to move toward a resolution of the conflict.

President Obama is very aware that he’s
talking about reversing decades of mistrust and working within a narrow
window of opportunity to align interests in the region and reach a
comprehensive resolution.

As he said, “This isn’t easy – if it were, we’d be talking about health care.”

I left the room feeling we are at a
truly historic moment of opportunity.
  There may never be another
American President who so clearly gets the issues strategically and has
the political capital to try to pull off an agreement.

To succeed, I really believe J Street
is going to be critical in demonstrating political support for the
President and to those in Congress who support his efforts.

If you’re inspired by the President’s
leadership – and our presence at the table after only 15 months – here
are a few things you can do right now to get involved:

1) Send this message to 3 friends and family
and show them what we are creating here together at J Street. The
larger our community of activists, the better we can fight for
pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy policies. They can sign up for our email list here.

2) Make a financial contribution.
Give J Street the resources to provide President Obama the political
support to achieve a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict by clicking here.

3) Come to our October Conference. 
To learn more about J Street’s first national conference – where you’ll
hear from prominent American and Israeli politicians, attend thought
provoking discussions, meet like-minded people, learn new skills for
taking J Street’s message back to your community, and so much more.

Here are more links where you can get more of a flavor of what happened at the meeting: