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When Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was confirmed last month despite opposition from conservative Jewish groups, some observers declared it a victory for the more moderate Israel lobby group J-Street, which supported Hagel. J-Street founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami joins us to talk about his group’s work and about President Obama’s trip to Israel next week.

Guests:
Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and president of J-Street and former deputy domestic policy adviser in the White House under President Bill Clinton

  • Chris OConnell

    I always figured that Obama never visited Israel because there is no reason to go, nothing to celebrate. The big arms deals are done quietly.

    Bipartisan, consensus US policy for 40 years has been to support UN Resolution 242, which calls for Israeli withdrawal from the territories it occupied in the 1967 war. More recently, since George Bush, we have specifically endorsed a 2-state solution.The US has had a massive failure in achieving our objectives, despite the presence of the Greatest Ally Ever(TM).

    So what are we going to do: Go to Israel and celebrate either how weak we are in achieving our interests, or how duplicitous we are in claiming such interests? Or some combination of both? What you get is a photo-op of non-success, from the US point of view. A picture of the tali wagging the dog and I figured we didn’t want this. So I wonder if Obama has anything up his sleeve.

    Here is some insight from a certain scholar who helped explain how the most powerful nation in the history of the world is so inept at achieving rather pedestrian goals.
    http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/03/12/two_states_for_two_peoples_the_sequel

    • mr. x

      That is NOT what 242 says. It calls for a negotiated resolution of all concerns, something Israel is willing to do, but Hamas and the PA have not been.

      • Chris OConnell

        Yes, it says precisely that. Or more precisely: “Affirms that the fulfillment of Charter principles requires the
        establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East which should include the application of both the following principles:
        (i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;
        (ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

        Since you deny my factual claim that is easily proven, all of your other comments lose credibility.

        • Daniel Zilberman

          “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and
          acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political
          independence of every’. Are you saying that Hamas and Fatah are NOT belligerent towards Israel? Are Kassam and Grad

          rockets not belligerent enough for you?

          • Another Mike

            This is one of my biggest complaints: that pro-Israelis think “He started it!” is a valid argument. It is a childish argument that my parents didn’t tolerate when I was a child.

          • Daniel Zilberman

            No Mike – the argument is not “He started it” but rather look at the incredible complexity of history of modern Israel OBJECTIVELY and take into account numerous efforts by various Israeli governments: left, right and (to be seen) center to achieve peace with Arabs by painful but required land concessions. These efforts all failed b/c – very unfortunately – the goal of extreme elements in Arab states and “freedom movements” was, is and will be destruction of Israel as Jewish state. Sad but true…

          • Chris OConnell

            No. I am saying US policy has been to support Resolution 242. Mr. X denied my accurate (albeit not complete) description of 242. My point is US policy in trying to implement 242 has been an abject failure. That’s a fact. Your point, presumably, is that Arabs are all to blame, not Israel. That’s an opinion.

    • Another Mike

      Obama visited Israel in 2008.

  • Peter

    J Street proclaims its “vision of Israel” as “a country that Jews can always go to be safe and as a thriving democracy that reflects the highest values of the Jewish people: justice, equality, treating your neighbor as you wish to be treated yourself.”
    http://jstreet.org/blog/post/proisrael-propeace_2

    Yet J Street’s stated position on Palestinian refugees is: “the vast majority of refugees would be resettled outside the internationally recognized borders of Israel, while receiving compensation.”
    http://jstreet.org/blog/post/refugees_1

    Isn’t that a contradiction? Hundreds of thousands of people fled the fighting during Israel’s war of independence. When the shooting stopped, those whose homes had been within Israel’s present-day boundaries were allowed to return to their homes if they were Jewish, but were barred from returning to their homes if they were not Jewish. How can J Street support this double standard and also claim to support “justice, equality, treating your neighbor as you wish to be treated yourself”?

    • mr. x

      Not a contradiction. There were just as many Jewish refugees who were kicked out of their ancestral homes in places that are now Arab countries, and are not going to be going back. A one-way right of return would be unfair. Let’s just move forward.

      • Another Mike

        Palestinians displaced from Israel were not responsible for displacing Jews from any Arab country. Bitter experience should have taught Jews the unfairness of ascribing collective guilt.

        • mr. x

          And the Jews living in the West Bank are not responsible for anything that happened in 1948. That’s my point. The past is past. There is no right of return. Let’s move on. There is plenty of land of Arabs and for Israelis, as soon as both sides sit down and negotiate. And it’s clear that it is the Palestinian side who can’t get their act together.

          • Another Mike

            They are the heirs and beneficiaries of what happened in 1948. Or do you mean they’re prepared to forswear their patrimony? That should quickly resolve the Palestinian situation.

            But why do Jews get a right of return but not Palestinians? Same land, right? Ethnically Jews and Arabs are almost indistinguishable.

          • mr. x

            Well, what happened in 1948 was that Israel and the Palestinians were offered states, Israel accepted, and the Palestinians refused. But that’s ancient history, isn’t it.
            Jews get a right of return like any country has a right of return for its people. If your parents were German or French, you have the right to go to those countries. That’s not the same right of return as displaced refugees. Such refugees never go back, not in Pakistan and India, not in Europe, nowhere.
            Arab nations are free to allow Arabs to return. That’s their right of return.
            Otherwise, the issue is used as another excuse to avoid talks.

          • Another Mike

            Only Ireland offers anything like a “right of return” for the average American.

            But Germany does offer a right of return for anyone whose family was forced to leave during the Hitler time.

            The argument that other countries must take care of Israel’s refugees is a non-starter. Israel needs Jews

          • mr. x

            Germany and France and most European nation offer a right of return for anyone with German or French parents or grandparents, whether or not they left during ww2, or they left willingly or not.
            No one is claiming that other countries have to take care of Jewish refugees. Israel does that. The very many Arab nations need to take care of Arab refugees, and not keep them in camps, which is where they are today. Camps in Arab countries, not Israel. Until 1967, all West Bankers were Jordanian citizens. They belong in Jordan, except that the Palestinians tried to take over Jordan, and Jordan hates them. Jordan treats Palestinians worse than Israel ever could, but no one seems to mind that.

          • Another Mike

            Better doublecheck. Other EU citizens have a right of abode anywhere in the EU, but Americans, Canadians, South Americans, et al. do not.

          • Daniel Zilberman

            Kudos to Mr. X for speaking the realistic truth. There are indeed many Arab states and Jordan for example has exactly same ethnically formed population as Palestinians. They of course refused to take so called refugees (whom they incited to flee in the first place) after Black September Arafat movement tried to kiil the Jordanian King. Let’s indeed get real, look at the facts on the ground and move forward, not backwards.

          • Another Mike

            Those foolish refugees, not wanting to stay in the middle of a war zone! I guess that means they deserved whatever happened to them.

            Right of return: Your ancestors left 1900 years ago? Come on down!
            Your ancestors left 60 years ago to avoid being shot to death? Sorry, you lost all your rights.

  • mr. x

    Does J Street think it can generate a peace treaty unilaterally? Do they think that other supporters of Israel don’t want a peace treaty? I appreciate the blind optimism, I guess, but how do you expect Israel to make a peace treaty by itself? If Israel draws the borders, they won’t be accepted, and right now no one else is willing to discuss borders.

    Also, Jstreet seems to be calling for the ethnic cleansing of all Jews from the West Bank. I’m all for another Palestinian state, but calling for it to be Jew-free is wrong. That is nothing but genocide. No reasonable voice is calling for all Muslims to be removed from Israel, and it’s wrong to call for all Jews to be removed from any other country.

    • Daniel Zilberman

      Could not say this any better! Land for peace tried and failed in 90s in Israel culminating in Gaza fiasco. All and any negotiations with Arabs should be as they were before mutually binding and open. Even Begin managed to broker a peace with Egypt after winning the war of Yom Kippur.

  • Another Mike

    Recognizing Israel’s right to exist is the Palestinians’ chief bargaining chip. What will Israel give up in return?

    • mr. x

      A huge chunk of its land, when the Palestinians decide to actually negotiate.

    • Chris OConnell

      Israel rejects the land for peace equation. They would rather have the land than the peace. Who can blame them as they are militarily dominant and don’t have much land.

      • Daniel Zilberman

        Really Chris? Who gave up Gaza strip UNILATERALLY without ANY preconditions in 2005 and only got Hamas terrorist shooting rockets to Israeli cities. The biggest problem with the anti Israel folks is just plain denial of historical facts in favor of .. well, BIASED attitude tiowards Israel.

        • Chris OConnell

          The biggest problem with the pro-Israel folks is just plain denial of historical facts in favor of .. well, BIASED attitude towards Israel.

          My statement is absolutely true. You can see it in a comment from the new secular leader in Israel, Naftali Bennett: “There is no room in our small but wonderful God-given tract for another state,” Bennett said in a speech that stressed Israel’s Jewish religious heritage as a cornerstone of its society. “It won’t happen. Friends, before every discussion on the territories, we need to declare: ‘The land of Israel belongs to the people of Israel.’ Only then can we start the debate.”

          • mimiwolfe

            Naftali Bennet is now an orthodox Jew and is expressing a point of view from the far Right in Israeli culture and politics. He did not do as well as feared in the recent election, and came in behind a man who represents a more left of center view, Lapid.
            You cannot use his statements to be Israeli policy!!

  • mr. x

    The green line is not a border and it never was. It is a unilateral cease fire line, and it’s not a final border. The final border must be negotiated.

  • Fay Nissenbaum

    Who funds the settlements and why does Israel take our aid, yet thumb its nose at our opposition to the settlements? Is Israel, in funding settlements, not unlike Saudi Arabia funding any mosque that espouses Wahhabi – style Islam?

    My Israeli friend in Tel Aviv says the settlement supporters are Israel’s ultra right wing, like our extreme christian right, yet the government pays them to practice their extremeism.

    • mr. x

      Opposition to settlements is equivalent to calling for the ethnic cleansing of all Jews from land that Arabs decide should be theirs.
      Doesn’t sound so good when put that way, does it?

    • menloman

      And ironically right-wing Christians oppose these welfare schemes. While the left builds housing for welfare queens.

      • thucy

        I pretty much think anyone who uses the term “welfare queen” can and should be ignored.

        • menloman

          Which you then choose to not ignore.

      • Fay Nissenbaum

        The word “Cleansing ” infers you have permitted them to be built in the first place. Zoning laws say where and how things are built; they are not so-called ‘cleansing laws’, unless you twist the truth as you’re doing.

  • menloman

    I’m am disgusted by the waste of US taxpayer resources and policy to defend another country that created the problem they now face. Had Harry Truman not signed up to endorse the formation of a ‘Jewish state’, against the advice of Gen. george Marshall, and in a cynical attempt to win election by seeking favor of New York Jews, we and the Middle East would not be in the absolute mess it has become.

    • mr. x

      Right, because there was no trouble in the world or the middle east before 1948.

      • menloman

        Something in your brain that prevents you from processing what is good for THIS country?

        • mr. x

          Something in your brain that prevents you from realizing that not everyone agrees with you about what’s best for the US, especially with your “New York Jews” racist BS.

          • menloman

            Using the term ‘Jew’ is now racist? BTW, I never mentioned New York in any context.

          • Beth Grant DeRoos

            You wrote ‘New York Jews’. Go back and read what YOU wrote.

          • menloman

            I stand corrected. This was said in the historical context of why Truman agreed to endorse the founding of Israel. He was in a presidential campaign with Thomas Dewy who, it was believed would likewise endorse the establishment of Israel. Because Truman was perceived to be behind in the race he wanted to win New York by appealing to Jewish voters there. I never intended that to be a slur, merely a description of what was behind the endorsement. Sorry for being unclear.

    • thucy

      Menlo,
      It was my impression that Truman supported the founding of Israel because this country wasn’t ready to absorb so many Jewish refugees. (Even the first lady, Mrs. Truman, was profoundly “uncomfortable” with Jews.) The US was, frankly, too anti-semitic to absorb the refugees. It’s our loss, actually. What becomes of Israel now, who knows, the demographics aren’t in Israel’s favor.

      • menloman
        • thucy

          That’s interesting because it posits that Marshall’s anti-semitism worked AGAINST the founding of Israel; I’d read previously that Truman’s own anti-semitism worked IN FAVOR of founding the state of Israel.
          It’s credible that Truman wouldn’t want the political backlash of trying to re-home displaced European Jews after WWII in the States (even though I personally believe it would have been the right thing to do.) Anti-semitism wasn’t exactly a novelty at the time. Christ, I’ve visited parts of California where I still hear anti-semitic comments. Moreover, just re-absorbing returning US soldiers posed serious challenges.

          • menloman

            You seem to be saying that the evidence that Gen. George Marshall was an anti-semite is that he opposed the creation of Israel as opposed to a general hostility towards Jewish people. Are aware that there were Jews who also opposed its creation and are presumably also anti-semites?

          • thucy

            No, that wasn’t at all what I wrote. It’s apparently what you inferred?
            But it is true that leadership within the US armed forces was at the time roundly anti-semitic. This should not surprise you; West Point CONTINUES to wrestle with anti-semitism in 2013.

          • menloman

            So you are saying that Gen. George Marshall was an anti-semite is because he was in the Army?

          • thucy

            Uh, in a word: no. The ONLY thing I wrote about Marshall specifically was that the article you presented posits that Marshall’s anti-semitism worked against the founding of Israel. That’s it, guy.

          • menloman

            “it posits that Marshall’s anti-semitism worked AGAINST the founding of Israel…” Your words.

          • thucy

            Precisely, and no matter how carefully you parsed my exact words, there is no way you should have inferred the totally different meanings you came up with. It looks like, from reading Beth’s responses to you, that you also have trouble comprehending – or even remembering – what you yourself write.

          • menloman

            I’m confused. Are you claiming that Gen. George Marshall was an anti-semite based solely on his being against the establishment of Israel, or do you have additional evidence you wish to share?

            As for the assertion that I am a bigot for using the words ‘New York Jews’, perhaps you could enlighten me about the proper term for Jewish people residing in New York. If they lived in Montana would it matter?

  • Another Mike

    The establishment of a Jewish state was welcomed by antisemites as much as anything. Antisemitism prompted the Johnson-Reed immigration quota system (in force from the 1920s to the 1960s) as well as similar immigration laws in Canada — by limiting Eastern European immigration, Jewish immigration was automatically limited. We all know about the turning back of the S.S. St. Louis in 1939.

    Basically none of the developed countries wanted the remnants of Europe’s Jewry, so why not let them have a few square kilometers of desert?

  • GB

    There is no question about the existence of Israel. But the settlements outside of Israel proper is the biggest block to settling the conflct.

    • mr. x

      It’s just the latest excuse for not negotiating with Israel. Israel has repeatedly removed settlements when peace treaties have been signed (and even unilaterally, as in the case of Gaza, in the vain hope of peace). Israel has expressed willingness to remove settlements in the West Bank if a peace treaty can be negotiated.

  • If a one state solution emerges, what will it look like? Could it be free and respect the interests of both ethnic groups, as well as immigrants? If it is possible, then why not fight for it now? When so many Arabs live in Israel and so many more have a legitimate demand to move back, and so many Jews have moved to the West Bank, it seems that a two state solution is going to do a disservice to many on both sides.

    • mr. x

      A one state solution is a non-starter. There is no majority Arab nation that respects the interests of its Jewish citizens, or other minorities. There’s no reason to expect that to change.

  • yousef.salem@gmail.com

    Hello, Michale. long time. UN Resolution 181 that alloted land to both Palestinians Arabs and to Jews in 1948 has never been modified thus every inch of land alotted to Palestinians is still legally theirs regardless of the Palestinians’ refusal to accept the loss of their land to a foreign people. .

    • mr. x

      Except that the Palestinians themselves refused that resolution.
      And it wasn’t their land, there never was a Palestine, and Israeli were on that land before anyone was called Palestinian, before Islam was developed, before Arabs left the Arabian peninsula.

  • Daniel Zilberman

    Very typical (and very expected given long history of profound biased anti-Zionism form the Left) comments from folks like “menloman”. Ignoring facts of 60 y.o history (Holocaust where 6 mln. non “New York Jews” perished and the survivors desperately were longing for new Homeland) . And more recent ones – unilateral withdrawl from Gaza strip by “hawk” turned very moderate Israeli PM Ariel Sharon brought no peace but a barrage of Kassam rockets from Hamas and Islamic jihad terrorists. The main obstacle for peace between Israel and Palestinians is their consistent incitement against Jewish state and open statements calling for destruction of Israel. The rest of Middle East is on fire because so called “Arab Spring” movements of 2010-201 were hijacked by Islamists who again only distract their population by convenient anti-Semitic rethoric.

  • George

    Mr. Ben-Ami you have made my day! It is about time that COURAGEOUS AMERICAN JEWS like you try to resolve this issue by highlighting the fact that the USA cannot blindly support ISRAEL

    George

  • Another Mike

    Israel needs to plan for the long term reality that it will be a minority Jewish country. There remains no great Jewish population on earth that can be persuaded to move to Israel, and despite the best efforts of the haredi, the Arabs will outbreed them.

  • menloman

    If Israel is a land for the Jews why isn’t Mr. Ben-Ami living there instead of trying to redirect US tax dollars from here?

    • Daniel Zilberman

      Because he would not want to risk his precious life to a stray rocket form Gaza or a suicide bomber blast in public bus. As for US tax dollars – they also go to support Palestinian Authority despite its full and open denial of Israel’s right to exist. But it wouldn’t matter to you, right?

      • menloman

        So both he and you are cowards then?

      • Chris OConnell

        You lie.

  • menloman

    Jewish groups far and wide promote multi-culturalism except for Israel. There it’s a land for the Jews. Try selling that same idea in the US for any other ethnic group.

  • Chris OConnell

    Michael Krasny probably has no idea but he exudes such a pro-Israeli bias that I have to call it out. I guess since there is AIPAC and J Street, AIPAC is conservative and J Street is liberal. Therefore, all the questions and challenges to J Street must come from the right. But this forgets that they are both pro-Israel lobby groups. A lot of people, like me, are anti-Israel and we think Israel has the lion share of the blame in this conflict, especially since 2002 when the whole Arab World came out with a peace initiative that Israel rejected and thus the US and the media swept under the rug.

    There are very legitimate grievances against Israel and J Street from a different perspective than AIPAC but those are just not aired, except by one caller who would not get my vote as the anti-Israeli spokesman. Instead we get such bizarre comments from the host such as: “But Obama snubbed Netanyahu.” Krasny truly believes this! He seems not to know that it is the other way around. Not once, but THRICE. Three times Obama was humiliated by Netanyahu but the host thinks it is the other way around. Where does he get his information?!?

    In the most jaw-dropping moment, Netanyahu lectured Obama IN THE WHITE HOUSE AND BEFORE THE CAMERAS. But there is nothing Obama can do because Congress is truly Israeli-occupied territory.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    Israel is a wee small country surrounded my big mostly Muslim countries that want it wiped off the face of the earth. Historically Jews were there first, followed by Christ-ians and the Muslims. Look at how much land Israel has given up. How much is to much and when will we hear from Muslims who do not want Israel destroyed. And shame on Mr Ben-Ami and others who side with the enemies of Israel.

    • Chris OConnell

      You totally mischaracterize Ami. He is the head of a PRO-ISRAELI LOBBY!!!!!. But at least your other points are equally profound.

  • disqus_EnGWrZnaTW

    I am very surprised that the host knew so little about President’s Obama’s recent difficulties with Benjamin Netanyahu. Given Netanyahu’s attempts to support Mitt Romney in the recent presidential election, there is a bias against Obama. Michael Krasny should have known the answer to his own question – “didn’t Obama snub Netanyahu?” The host should know more about the leader of his own country given the importance of today’s topic.

    • Another Mike

      Hosts ask questions because they want to hear what their guests have to say in response.

  • fchurch66

    I wish this dude would debate Norman Finkelstein, who is much more radical on this issue.

    They settle Jewish refugees in Israel all the time, but bar arabs, there’s your double standard. The Likud charter says that they do not support a Palestinian state. The current Israeli leadership are racists. No softening this obvious truth.

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