A glum mood on J Street

A glum mood on J Street

J Street, the "political home" for pro-Israel, pro-two state solution (read: anti-AIPAC) American Jews, kicked off its third annual conference in Washington on Saturday night. But despite its massive efforts to mobilize behind President Obama, executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami doesn’t seem to be terribly satisfied with the commander in chief’s track record in a press roundtable:

"We would like to see the president do more, we’d like to see the administration take a more proactive role in outlining the parameters for a resolution of the conflict, and to build an international coalition of supporters beyond the Quartet."

Ben-Ami also invoked Libya and Iran as examples for the White House to follow as it builds consensus for a two-state solution.

"The way the world was brought together around Libya and around the Iran sanctions, that’s the kind of mobilization of international support that the administration will need to do if it wants to re-establish American credibility in foreign policy making."

A panel discussion held during the conference on Sunday about the current prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace took on a bleaker tone. According to Lara Friedman, director of policy and government relations for Americans for Peace Now, the current administration is simply exhausted:

"They were serious, but realized that they didn’t have the political stomach…They thought they had the will to see it through, but they got exhausted."

Nadav Eyal of Israel’s Maariv newspaper added that the president does not appear to be invested in the issue:

"Obama needs to come into this personally, and he has not done that."

Leila Hilal, co-director of the New America Foundation’s Middle East Task Force, even questioned the viability of the two-state solution itself:

"This is the time to think about new strategies. Two states is a largely hollow and abstract notion, and the Palestinian public has no interest in dead-end talks…Conditions are not ripe, and the U.S. administration cannot force proposals."

For an organization that’s supposed to rally support for a peaceful two-state solution, this year’s attendees seem fairly pessimistic about the chances of achieving that goal. Ben-Ami may be optimistic that the stars will someday align, but for now J Street’s timing is all wrong.