I couldn’t be more pleased that J Street’s National Conference last week has sparked an energetic and long-needed discussion about the role that US assistance to Israel should play, not only in supporting Israel’s long-term security, but in advancing the goal of peacefully resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and bringing an end to the occupation.
It’s no secret that this is a complicated and contentious subject, in which some are all too willing to misrepresent and misconstrue the positions with which they disagree.
There are those to J Street’s right who believe that the level and uses of American aid to Israel can under no circumstances be discussed or debated — and who seek to silence this conversation.
There are those to J Street’s left who question the need for that assistance and call for it to be entirely cut or heavily reduced.
Here’s what J Street believes:
This is not a call to reduce the level of US security assistance, or to “condition aid.” It is a call to ensure that the end uses of the aid we provide, funded by US tax dollars, clearly align with our interests, policies and laws — and actually advance Israel’s security.
J Street is very encouraged and energized that there is a vibrant discussion emerging on this question. We may not share all of the positions advanced by every presidential candidate or organization with which we are generally aligned. But we do believe — without question — that the time is right for an open, honest and respectful national conversation about how the US-Israel relationship operates, and how America should use its foreign policy tools in the region to promote peace, security and human rights.
Those attacking J Street and presidential candidates for even examining the concept of restricting the use of US aid are in many cases people who have loudly called for restrictions on aid to the Palestinian Authority or the United Nations. They are those who generally refuse to tolerate any criticism of Israeli government policy, and refuse to even recognize the existence of the occupation.
In order for this important conversation to flourish, we cannot allow them to silence us, or to successfully smear those they disagree with as “anti-Israel.” We cannot let the “old playbook” come back into fashion.
We’ve demonstrated that the large majority of American Jews are pro-Israel but opposed to the far-right agenda of Trump, Netanyahu and their allies. Like the majority of Democrats and Americans in general, they want to see our next president confront the challenges of conflict and occupation head-on — and take bold, principled steps to lead the way toward a two-state solution.
We are determined to help defeat Donald Trump, and to make sure that his successor has the space, the vision and the tools they need to lead the way toward a better future from Day One.
Our conference was a major milestone in this work. We look forward to standing together with you to continue the fight throughout the year ahead.