J Street still has a little fight left for the struggle ahead

I have many issues with J Street (see here), but good on its head Jeremy Ben-Ami challenging the Israeli government over its increasingly erratic public statements:

Being an Israeli ambassador these days can’t be easy. On the one hand, you’re working for a prime minister whose strong suit is public relations, who at least talks of peace with the Palestinians and who has consistently judged that engaging in the diplomatic process rather than refusing to talk plays better with domestic and international audiences.

On the other hand, you’re working for a foreign minister who seems to have missed Diplomacy 101 during his orientation. This boss dismisses traditional diplomacy as “groveling” and prefers that Israel lecture the world rather than engage it.

Talk about a rock and a hard place. As one of your bosses talks up the Israeli interest in negotiation and compromise, the other pulls the country unflinchingly toward a racist, undemocratic future.

Along comes a pro-Israel lobby anxious to support the government if it moves beyond speeches about peace to serious action to end the occupation and save the country’s Jewish and democratic character – and what should you do?

ONE NATURAL diplomatic instinct might be to build the biggest possible tent for pro-Israel advocacy, including those who disagree at times with government policies.

If you happened to be a student of history and a more-than-casual observer of the American Jewish community, you would undoubtedly note that Israeli ambassadors have long dealt with pro-Israel groups who disagree publicly (and at times vehemently) with the government – whether over Oslo or the Gaza withdrawal or, going back 30 years, over withdrawal from the Sinai.

However, returning home to Jerusalem this past week, you would have gotten little clear guidance from your bosses. You would have heard the prime minister say that the conditions are ripe for a peace agreement with the Palestinians and the foreign minister calling those same Palestinians a “bunch of terrorists” with whom there is no chance of achieving peace for a generation.

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