Why J Street is a Dead End

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the executive director of J Street and a fellow blogger, has recently published a blog with the unwieldy title: “The Trump team is only making the Israeli-Palestinian conflict worse”.  J Street is situated on the leftish side of the political spectrum and bills itself as “The political home for pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans”.

It therefore should surprise no one that Mr. Ben-Ami has very little that is positive to say about Trump, Trump’s team, or the yet-to-be-introduced plan the Trump administration is formulating to address the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.  There are plenty of nits he picks, but I’ll focus on one aspect that really seems to rub Mr. Ben-Ami the wrong way.

Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and chief architect of the plan, recently was interviewed about it.  This is Mr. Ben-Ami’s account of part of what Mr. Kushner said, and his own reaction to what was said:

When asked if the Palestinians deserve their own independent state …, Kushner implied that was something only “technocrats” cared about, while average Palestinians just “want the opportunity to live a better life” and to “pay their mortgage.” He indicated that the Palestinians are currently not capable of governing themselves.

This condescending attitude ignores the basic truth: Just like Israelis, Palestinians desire freedom and equality in a state of their own. It’s dangerous and delusional to imagine … that Israel can remain a democratic homeland for the Jewish people without a two-state solution.

So, let’s consider two statements: (1) Palestinians are currently not capable of governing themselves, and (2) Palestinians desire freedom and equality in a state of their own.  Here’s a simple question of logic: does statement (1) contradict or “ignore” (whatever that means in this context) statement (2)?  Put another way, is it possible in the real world that both statement (1) and statement (2) are true?

The answers are that the two statements are not in way contradictory or inconsistent, and they both could be true in the real world.  In fact, I think that anyone with normal intelligence and a firm grasp on reality would readily concede that both indeed are true.

I’m going to assume the truth of statement (2), although there are news reports every day that many Palestinians have given up on the idea of their own state and would prefer to have a bi-national state that combines Israel and the disputed territories in one entity.

That brings us to statement (1) and the question: are the Palestinians currently capable of governing themselves?  Let’s look at the facts.

The current “government” of the Palestinians is actually two governments: one in Gaza, and a different government in the West Bank.  The government in the West Bank is headed by “President” Mahmoud Abbas, who is now in the fourteenth year of his four-year term as president of the Palestinian Authority.  Does the expansion of a four-year term in office to a fourteen-year term (and counting) indicate a properly functioning government?  Perhaps it does to J Street, but not to me.

Gaza, on the other hand, is ruled by the terrorist group Hamas, which in 2007 violently expelled the P.A. from Gaza.  Hamas and other terrorist groups headquartered in Gaza are the Palestinians who fire missiles and mortar shells into Israel, and who dig tunnels under the border to be used to attack Israel.  (“President” Abbas has not set foot in Gaza since 2007, when Hamas seized control.)

Abbas and the P.A. have no control over Hamas.  In fact, the main reason the P.A. has not held an election for president since 2005 is that they believe, with very good reason, that a Hamas-backed candidate would defeat Abbas or any candidate backed by Abbas and his superannuated cronies.  Indeed, it is very likely that Hamas would have thrown Abbas and the P.A. out of the West Bank, just as they did in Gaza, were it not for Israel’s role in keeping Abbas in place.  (As impotent as Abbas is, he’s more acceptable, from the Israeli perspective, than Hamas.)

Any reasonable person, reviewing the above facts, would conclude that the Palestinians are indeed currently incapable of governing themselves.  A “peace treaty” signed by Abbas and the P.A. would be a worthless piece of paper, because the most violent Palestinians with whom Israel has to deal are Hamas and the other terrorist groups in Gaza.  Those Palestinians would have nothing but contempt for Hamas and any “peace treaty” he signed.  (Hamas was livid when Abbas extended condolences to Israeli President Rivlin on the death of his wife—how would they react to a treaty with Israel?)

Finally, consider the notion that, without a “two-state solution,” Israel will not be able to “remain a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.”  Why should anyone believe this?  In 1967 Israel gained control of the disputed territories; in 1993 the Oslo accords gave Palestinians a degree of self-autonomy in those territories; and in 2005 all Israelis—soldiers and citizens—left Gaza.  During all those permutations, Israel continued to be a democratic Jewish state.  There is no reason to believe that that situation, as imperfect as it may be for both Israelis and Palestinians, cannot be maintained indefinitely into the future.

J Street is a dead end because its policy-makers are blind to both logic and facts.  And it has been said: none are so blind as those who will not see.

About the Author
David E. Weisberg is a semi-retired attorney and a member of the N.Y. Bar; he also has a Ph.D. in Philosophy from The University of Michigan (1971). He now lives in Cary, NC. His scholarly papers on U.S. constitutional law can be read on the Social Science Research Network at: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=2523973
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