I have just returned from two weeks of meetings in Washington, D.C., Israel and the West Bank.
Immediately before embarking for Israel, I attended the national conference of J Street in Washington, D.C. J Street is a pro-Israel pro-peace political and educational organization that has for the last five years been a consistent and strong advocate for a two-states for two people’s resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is the fasting growing political action committee in Washington and though many Jews are supporters, it is has garnered the support of Americans who understand the critical importance of a peace resolution of the conflict.
Leading Israeli and American government officials spoke to the nearly 3000 delegates (which included 900 college and university students), along with Palestinian leadership about the challenges and opportunities for a two-state solution. Included among the speakers were Vice President Joe Biden, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Rep. John Lewis, US Chief Negotiator Martin Indyk, Israeli Chief Negotiator Tzipi Livni, Likud MK Tzachbi Hanegbi, Israeli Labor opposition leader Shelly Yachimovich, members of the Knesset from the Avodah, Meretz, Likud, Yesh Atid, Shas, and Tenua parties, Israeli human rights activists, and journalists.
Then my wife and I took off for Israel to lead a mission of members of my synagogue community to meet with Israelis on the left and right, settlers, human rights activists, journalists, and members of the Knesset, as well as with Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah and Palestinian business and community leaders in Rawabi. We did not nor would we meet with anyone from Hamas.
Our purpose was to gain deeper understanding of the current attitudes of Israelis and Palestinians towards each other, and to express our American Jewish support for a two-states for two peoples resolution of the conflict.
In the next two or three weeks I will post blog entries on many of the themes that J Street and our mission addressed including:
· Israeli and Palestinian hopes and fears
· West Bank Settlements, militant and not-so-militant settlers, and the consequences of Israeli west-bank development
· The BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanction) Movement and American Jews
· Palestinian business development in the West Bank and its role in securing a future peace agreement
· Political asylum seekers in Israel from Sudan and Eretria
· “Solidarity Sheik Jarrah” and Sara Beninga’s activism in East Jerusalem
· The struggle for Judaism in the Jewish State
· The problem in defining a “Jewish State”
· “Women of the Wall,” the ultra-orthodox and the Sharansky Compromise
All of these issues are complex. The challenge is to make sense of the ideologies, truths and strong emotions on all sides.
One overriding truth is that Israel, the Palestinians and the peoples and nations of the Middle East are inextricably intertwined with each other and that Israel’s destiny as a Jewish democratic state depends on how it resolves the conflict with the Palestinians.
I do not claim to have answers. What I will attempt to do is shine a light on some of these issues we confronted.
More to come!