Word on the Street: J Street to Focus on Settlements in Coming Months

Jeremy Ben-Ami
on October 8, 2014

With peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians in deep freeze, J Street has resolved to step up and sharpen its opposition to Israel’s ceaseless settlement expansion – a task which is crucial to preserving the viability of the two-state solution and Israel’s long-term future as a democracy and Jewish homeland.

The Israeli government, headed by Prime Minister Netanyahu, has a dismal record on settlements. Last year, according to official figures from the Israeli Bureau of Statistics, settlement construction exploded by 123 percent compared to 2012 – and that at a time when peace negotiations were ongoing.

J Street’s most important task in the coming months is to place ourselves in the vanguard of opposition to this settlement drive, which threatens to kill the prospect of ever achieving a two-state solution.

This will be our central theme in the months leading up to our National Policy Conference, next March 21-24 in Washington, DC. Please consider making your voice heard by signing up for what will be the biggest gathering of the American pro-Israel, pro-peace, pro-democracy movement in history.

We realize that peace depends also on Palestinian actions and cannot be determined, realized or imposed by one party alone. But while peace talks are frozen, settlement expansion threatens Israel’s security and international standing and the rights and aspirations of Palestinians, and gives new fuel to the BDS Movement.

That is why, to preserve the chance of achieving a two-state solution, J Street is now putting opposition to settlement expansion at the center of its agenda:

First, we will press the Obama administration and Congress to take a tougher stand against Israeli settlements and to undertake a thorough review of actions it can take to clarify the consequences for Israel if this expansion continues.

We must persuade Israel that America’s longstanding opposition goes beyond mere words and is real.

One step that we are already pushing is that the United States should return to defining West Bank settlements as “illegal,” as was the position of the US government before the 1980s and as is the view of the United Nations and most other countries including all of the European Union.

Second, J Street will advocate that American Jewish communal institutions speak out strongly and clearly about the danger that settlement expansion poses to Israel’s future and its place in the international community.

Among the steps communal institutions could take are using maps of Israel that show the Green Line, providing transparent accounting of funds that pass through their accounts to the settlements, and adopting policies that prohibit funds from flowing to projects that create obstacles to achieving a two-state solution.

Third, J Street will step up efforts to make the case to Israel and Israelis that establishing an internationally-accepted border through negotiations must be a top national priority.

Our appeal to Israel will stress the importance of the government finally accepting the principle of two states for two peoples established on the basis of the pre-1967 lines with equivalent swaps – something the Netanyahu government refused to do in nine months of negotiations sponsored by Secretary of State Kerry.

We do this out of our profound love for Israel and our deepening fear that the Netanyahu government is pursuing policies that endanger Israel’s future as a democracy and Jewish homeland by making the occupation of another people permanent.

Israel’s long-term future can only be secured by ending the conflict with the Palestinians. The two-state solution remains the only viable path to that goal. It goes without saying that such an agreement would need to include ironclad provisions to assure Israel’s security.