J Street – the liberal, two-state pro-Israel group – is in the process of wrapping up a rather large and successful event here in DC. The feedback from the left and the right on the organization and its event has been a microcosm of what I’ve always pictured as a contentious Seder table with in-laws on either side…there’s love for the bride and groom, but differing opinions on what could really make them happy.
And so at the Seder table I’m imagining in my head, with J Street on one side and AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which has been the most prominent pro-Israel organization in Washington) on the other, there’s a feisty conversation (probably somewhere between the second and third cups of wine) going on about whose tactics and whose goals and whose vision is truly “pro-Israel.” And what, do you ask, is the hunk of maror – the bitter herb – sitting there in the middle of our Seder plate? Why, it’s the settlements, of course.
[DISCLAIMER: I was the National Deputy Political Director for AIPAC several years ago]
Even many of those on the right (see Bibi today on the settlements) are beginning to acknowledge the fact that regardless of the merit of the settlements, the reality on the ground is that they may be the tipping point for any kind of political solution in the Israel-Palestine debate. To be sure, there will be those who ardently cling to the notion of a Judea and Samaria that is divinely ordained to be a part of the Jewish homeland, just as there are those on the left who believe the West Bank is nothing more than a modern-day equivalent of the de Klerk regime (I share neither view). But for those who have half an eye open, it is becoming clear (and in quite rapid fashion) that the “status quo” in the region is an untenable reality. Imagine if you lived on a city block, and four houses immediately left and right of yours were to suddenly catch on fire. Would you look around and debate the arrangement of the furniture in your living room?
It is a bit of an amazement that while the Middle East burns, and American Jews fret over issues of conversion and existentialism, Israelis are enjoying an economic boom if not a political malaise. But the clock is ticking, and the flickering curls of flame emanating from Israel’s neighbors are moving perilously close to her borders. It can only be a matter of time before the elements that comprise this newfound spirit of revolution in the Arab world blossom in the hearts of every Palestinian on either side of Jerusalem.
The settlements – whether they are right or wrong – are simply gas on the flame in a political reality that could engulf the State of Israel. Disenfranchised Palestinians have some of the highest penetrations of online access in the Arab world, and have surely seen what their brothers and sisters in far more oppressive regimes have accomplished in the last six weeks. We Americans can bicker all we want about J Street and AIPAC and how scared or angry or fearful we are about the future of Israel; if Israelis don’t take notice and make some real, courageous decisions about the settlements and the future of an Israel living side by side – in peace – with her Palestinian neighbors, my fear is that they’ll need a lot more than four cups of wine at the next Seder-table debate between J Street and AIPAC.
Jason Boxt is a New Yorker by birth, but found himself confronted at a young age by a Moon Pie, a bottle of RC Cola, and a USC Gamecock t-shirt, and never looked back. After nearly ten years in politics (including a stint at AIPAC), Jason has taken refuge in a public affairs firm in DC – close enough to the fire to feel the heat, without singing his eyebrows. He is married to an incredible (his words) Cantor, has two small daughters, two cats, seven fish, and lives OUTSIDE the Beltway (ahem ahem).