Statement on Escalation of US-Israel Tensions

March 15, 2010

Today, J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:

The recent escalation of tension between the United States and Israel – sparked by Israel’s announcement regarding 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem – is a matter of serious concern to J Street and Israel’s friends generally. Preventing provocative actions which undermine the peace process and decisions which weaken U.S. credibility in the region is also a matter of fundamental American national security interest, particularly as the U.S. government works to build a broad international coalition to address the Iranian nuclear program. The United States is Israel’s closest ally. Their special relationship is rooted in shared interests and values and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Washington and across the country. That is all the more reason why the Obama administration’s reaction to the treatment of the Vice President last week and to the timing and substance of the Israeli government’s announcement was both understandable and appropriate. As Vice President Biden said, “Sometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth.” That is what he, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod have done in recent days – and J Street, along with many friends of Israel, stands solidly behind them. The important question for us is how the present situation can be turned into an opportunity to tackle a core issue at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians – the need to establish a border between Israel and the future Palestinian state. Fixing borders would eliminate the need to deal further with issues related to settlements on the West Bank or building in East Jerusalem. We urge the United States to take this opportunity to suggest parameters to the parties for resuming negotiations – basing borders on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, with the Palestinian state demilitarized and on territory equivalent to 100% of the area encompassed by the pre-1967 Armistice lines. Too much time has already been lost in getting the two sides into negotiations. We must not lose further time allowing a single development, as objectionable as it may be, to derail progress towards achieving a two-state solution. Bold American leadership is needed now to turn this crisis into a real opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is a fundamental American national security interest. The Obama administration will find vast support among American Jews and other friends of Israel for a bold new approach that aims to advance that interest and guarantees Israel a secure, democratic and Jewish future.