NEW YORK — The left-wing Jewish group J Street has called on President Barack Obama to respond to the situation in the Gaza Strip with a new American-led peace plan.
In a letter titled “Enough of silence,” J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami urged Sunday for “greater leadership” from the White House in bringing an end to the fighting in Gaza and advancing peace talks with the Palestinians.
“We reject the argument that the United States cannot want peace more than the parties themselves,” Ben-Ami wrote.
That very argument is being made by many in Washington, including some of the president’s advisors, who believe it would be a mistake for the White House to wade once again into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after efforts to coax the sides to the negotiating table during Obama’s first term ended quickly and without results.
J Street disagrees.
“Since when is the policy of the government of the United States set by actors who move in directions counter to our national or the world’s interest?” Ben-Ami asked, apparently referring to the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
“The United States remains essential to ending this deadly conflict,” he added.
“We call on the president of the United States to step forward in his second term with a bold new effort to resolve this conflict. Without a serious effort promoted by the president to achieve two states now, we may well witness the end of our dream for Israel to exist as a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”
Ben-Ami stood by Israel’s right to protect its citizens from Hamas’s aggression.
“Israel has the right and obligation to defend itself against rocket fire and against those who refuse to recognize its right to exist and inexcusably use terror and violence to achieve their ends,” he wrote.
But he questioned the wisdom of a potential ground incursion into the Gaza Strip.
“Military action may stop the rockets for a while at a cost of hundreds or even thousands injured or dead,” he wrote. “But military force alone is inadequate as a response to the broader strategic challenge Israel faces. Only a political resolution to the century-old conflict with the Palestinians resulting in two states living side by side can end the conflict.”
Israelis, he said, are not doing enough to bring about that end to the conflict.
“Sadly, too few in Israeli politics today are willing to say that the strategic threat to the survival of Israel is not the rockets from Gaza, but the failure to achieve two states before it is too late. Even more sadly, there is apparently little audience in Israel for such a message. We are told the Israeli people have given up on peace, that we shouldn’t talk of peace, that it’s a dirty word today.”
J Street’s message “to Israel’s government, and to our friends and family must be clear: we love you, we care about you, and the volcano on whose edge you sit is on the verge of erupting. We back your right to respond to unconscionable rocket fire, but we do not accept complacency or the argument that there is nothing to be done to resolve the conflict.”