A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman
October 10, 2010 Arab League, Citzenship Law, J Street
The Arab League has decided to put off a decision to break off the peace talks, by giving the US a month to stop Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank. The Arab League's decision creates a scenario for increased pressure on Israel to grant an extension of the settlement freeze. If the Arab League would have called off the talks they might have been accused of acting hastily, now all the pressure is going to be on the Netanyahu government. The editor of the Jerusalem Post wrote a piece called: Editor's Notes: The Fog of Diplomacy: The article reflects the confusion in trying to understanding where Netanyahu stands on the peace talks. I am happy to see that Horowitz is as much in the dark as I am.
Today the government passed the change in the law of citizenship, requiring any non-Jew who receives citizenship to swear allegiance to the Jewish democratic state of Israel. The law, which will affect almost no one, only does damage to Israel. Labor cabinet members and Begin, Eytan and Meridor of the Likud voted against the legislation saying it was absurd to pass a law that does nothing but hurt Israel’s image. All the PR efforts in the world will not help if the government keeps taking action that hurts Israel’s image worldwide. It is one thing when Israel has to take actions to insure the security of its Israel citizens, but when Israel takes action to fulfill the political needs of either Lieberman or Netanyahu it is simply inexcusable.
I had the opportunity the other evening to spend a few hours at a local synagogue watching a debate between Alan Dershowitz, the noted Harvard professor and Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of J-street. I walked into the meeting with a slight bias against J-Street, but with a sense that Dershowitz might be to the right of my political views. I was disabused of that later notion, but beyond that I left rather unsatisfied. There were plenty of personal sparks between the two men, but ultimately neither side made any substantial case. Ben-Ami made no strong case as to why J-Street is needed. In reality, other than to say they are able to attract young people to work for them, I saw no real case made as to why we need J-Street. On the other hand, Dershowitz made several arguments against J-Street, maintaining that J-Street was too critical of Israel, without putting their criticism of Israel into perspective. It's clear to me, after the debate. that the major failing of J-Street is that they do not actively advocate on behalf of Israel in areas that they agree with Israel’s position. J-Street only becomes vocal when they disagree. Ben-Ami was particularly weak when it came to answering Dershowitz's charges that J-Street had not done enough to defend Israel after the Goldstone report. Dershowitz was able to get Ben-Ami to agree that he disagrees with the major findings of the report, but Ben- Ami said that J-Street was not in a position to dispute the report.
One of the themes on which I can agree with Ben-Ami was the fact that it is hard for young people to identify with the likes of Dershowitz. Relating to youth has been a perennial problem in the Jewish world, when Jewish professionals stay in their jobs until they drop. I have been out of Jewish professional world for almost 20 years, and the same people are still running the Presidents' Conference, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York and the American Zionist Federation, to name just a few. We also must not ignore the clear place for a vigorous left-wing Zionist organization in the US, as there are no such effective organizations today. Such an organization might be able to attract many young Jews who are currently disaffected. However, in my mind, that organization, should not be a lobbying group.