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An Open Letter to Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director, J Street

  August 4, 2009

Dear Jeremy:

Not only do we share the goal of a two-state solution and normalization of relations between the Arab world and Israel, but we have no problem as well with the President’s belief in the need for greater U.S. engagement in the process and his outreach to the Muslim world.

And if the immediate goal is to get the parties to come to the table to negotiate, we’re all for that, too.

When, however, the suggestion is made that the Arab world and the Palestinians have taken concrete steps toward a true peace with Israel, and then policy is based on that, the problems begin.

It leads to a false belief that Israel never offered the Palestinians an opportunity to move toward a state, ignoring Camp David, Ariel Sharon’s Gaza disengagement, Ehud Olmert’s offer for peace.  It leads to a minimizing of the challenges long in the way of peace, the Palestinian demand for the right of return, their opposition to a demilitarized state, their rejection of the Jewish narrative in the Holy Land.  And, ironically, it has led to an exaggerated emphasis on the settlement issue – “if only Israel completely froze settlements, the Palestinians would negotiate peace.”

None of which is to say that Israel doesn’t have to deal with its own need for concessions. The record shows, however, that Israel has made significant offers and will again, but only if the other side finally goes beyond mere words and shows it is ready.

We have no doubt that we share similar goals. We believe the President does as well.  The assumptions that seem to underlie the Administration’s path toward those goals are, in our view, misguided and troubling. We believe they won't lead to the results desired, will cause unnecessary tensions between the two allies, the U.S. and Israel, and divert the region from its ultimate challenge, from Iran and other Islamic extremists.


Abraham H. Foxman
National Director
Anti-Defamation League

NYTimes Letter: Moving Beyond Settlements

Unsettling Signs: U.S. Takes on Israel on Settlements

Is U.S. Open To A Settlement Compromise? (op-ed in The Jewish Week, 8/7/09)

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