J Street Goes on Offense; New Campaign Labels Members of Congress Who Oppose Two-State Solution ‘Not Pro-Israel’

July 12, 2012

Ads kick off effort targeting Reps. Walsh and West for ‘Playing with Fire’
July 12, 2012

CONTACT: JESSICA ROSENBLUM, 202.448.1600 PR 202.279.0005 (C), [email protected]

WASHINGTON—For the first time Members of Congress who stake out hawkish positions on Israel that endanger the security of the state will be held to account by a new campaign launched by J Street.

Today, with the release of a television ad targeting Representative Joe Walsh and an online ad taking aim at Representative Allen West, J Street fired its opening salvos in this national campaign.

The ads can be viewed at https://jstreet.org/one-state-caucus.

The two 30-second spots accuse Walsh and West of “playing with fire” in their endorsement of a one-state “solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The two Members of Congress claim to support Israel, but are, in fact, breaking with the broad and long-standing bipartisan support for a two-state solution as a cornerstone of American foreign policy in the region, one which has been backed by the last three US and Israeli administrations.

The Walsh ad will begin running today in DC and will also air this weekend in Chicago. J Street has road-blocked the Sunday news shows there, so that Chicagoans tuning into any news show on Sunday on broadcast or cable will see the ad at least once. The West online ad will run in targeted news sites in West’s district.

“In election after election American Jews have stood by and watched while Members of Congress were attacked for supporting pro-Israel, pro-peace policies,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “J Street began changing that dynamic by rising to their defense. In this election, we will take that effort to a new level by calling out Members of Congress, like Walsh and West, who are playing with fire when it comes to Israel.”

“We intend to make it crystal clear that there are, indeed, many ways to be ‘pro-Israel’—but supporting a nightmarish one-state scenario is not one of them,” said Ben-Ami.

J Street’s campaign efforts will focus on what it is calling the “One-State Caucus” emerging in Congress. Walsh initiated the “caucus” last fall when he sponsored a House resolution urging Israel’s annexation of the West Bank. The resolution, which was cosponsored by 44 members, urges Israel to erase its international border permanently, annex the Palestinian territories unilaterally, and offer the Palestinians a truncated set of minority rights. All told, it amounts to calling for an end to Israel as a democratic homeland of the Jewish people.

In a Washington Times op-ed earlier this spring, Walsh added fuel to fire, claiming that “everyone who continues to cling to the delusion of a two-state solution is insane.” He wrote that the United States should instead support a “contiguous Israeli state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” He further suggested telling the Palestinians – whom he paints throughout the piece as corrupt, inept, hateful, and violent – to choose between “limited voting power” within Israel or a “return to the original Palestinian State,” Jordan.

Israel is one of only a few foreign policy issues to come to the fore in this election cycle, as many candidates for Congress and President alike vie for Jewish and evangelical support by staking out ever-more hawkish and ever-less tenable positions. In this cycle, it has become common parlance among these candidates to disparage and even deny Palestinian peoplehood, to express unqualified support for Israeli settlement beyond the 1967 lines and to liken US attempts to advance a diplomatic resolution to the conflict to betrayal of Israel.

“These positions may resonate with wealthy right-wing stalwarts like Sheldon Adelson and Irving Moskowitz, and some extremist Christian Zionists like Pastor John Hagee. But they are not pro-Israel and run counter to the long-term interests of both the United States and Israel,” said Ben-Ami.

These views are also out of step with what the vast majority of American Jews believe it means to be pro-Israel. Polls consistently show American Jews clearly want the United States to play an active role in helping the parties resolve the Arab- Israeli conflict. Support for the principle of American leadership remains strong when adding specifics such as the US putting forth a peace plan that proposes borders and security arrangements or the US publicly disagreeing with both Israelis and Palestinians.

“For too long, politicians in this country who advocate policies fundamentally at odds with Israel’s long-term peace and security in the name of being pro-Israel have operated with impunity,” Ben-Ami said. “This dispiriting race to the bottom dangerously limits the political space for our elected officials to assume the leadership necessary to resolve this conflict. Changing this calculus is a critical step in fixing the broken Israel politics in this country.”

“The time has come to confront the One-State Caucus members—and to call out the fact that what they are doing is not pro-Israel, and what they stand for would damage Israel’s chances for a secure future as a Jewish democracy. To be pro-Israel demands nothing less,” said Ben-Ami.