Following the Ramat Shlomo incident, J Street provided the Obama administration the political cover needed to press Israel to make major unilateral concessions in the false hope of creating an environment conducive to peace negotiations with the Palestinians. (Needless to say, the painful ten-month freeze Israel had placed on all building construction in East Jerusalem failed to bring meaningful results from the Palestinians and collectively hurt only Jews.)
The cover provided by J Street also helped embolden the administration to cast an unprecedented vote calling on Israel to join the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and to open its nuclear facilities to inspection.
The world took notice of America’s diplomatic abandonment of Israel and on May 31, with Netanyahu on his way to Washington to discuss the NPT with Obama, Turkey permitted the now infamous flotilla to violate the lawful Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. As feared by Hoenlein and Wiesel, the incessant public pressure put on Israel by the Obama administration had indeed created daylight between the two allies. The international community quickly labeled Israel’s defensive move against the flotilla an act of “aggression” and Netanyahu was forced to cancel his critical meeting with Obama in order to return to Israel to address the incident and its fallout.
Now, fifteen months after that White House meeting with Jewish leaders and despite the best efforts of J Street, the American people have spoken and the political climate has changed dramatically. The president and his party have been greatly weakened and have little political capital to expend promoting counterproductive approaches to addressing the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
Ten of the 54 signatories of the Gaza letter – nearly 20 percent – have either retracted their support or retired or been retired by their constituents at the ballot box. While there certainly were other major domestic factors at play in the midterm elections, elected officials – including the president – should take note that supporting the fringe views of J Street yielded a very poor return.
Now is the time to remind our representatives that January’s Gaza letter was unacceptable and represented neither the view of the American Jewish community nor, in fact, the view of the general American public. We must take advantage of the current political climate and insist that in exchange for our past and future support, our elected officials do more than publicly proclaim vague support for Israel. They must forcefully defend Israel’s right to exist and the actions it is forced to take in protecting itself and safeguarding its future.
Chaskel Bennett is a community activist. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.