Wednesday, October 28, 2009

First Annual J Street Conference Receives Gen. Jim Jones

On Saturday I discussed the J Street Project as a replacement for AIPAC.  They Just had their first annual conference, and the Obama administration appears to be taking them very seriously indeed.

When a politician attends the annual conference of the American Israel Political Action Committee, Washington's largest pro-Israel lobbying group, his task is simple: assert his commitment to Israel in the strongest possible terms. At the first annual conference of J Street, a new organization that pitches itself as a liberal alternative to AIPAC, the job is slightly more complicated: assert a strong and unshakeable commitment to both Israel and peace.

So it went at this year's conference, where Gen. Jim Jones, national security adviser to President Obama, delivered the keynote address Tuesday. For all the controversy the conference prompted—several supporters withdrew, participants were criticized, J Street's mission was questioned—the proceedings Tuesday were notable for their reasonableness. Jones said little Obama hadn't said at the United Nations in September or that Jones himself hadn't said earlier this month to the American Task Force on Palestine. "There will be setbacks, challenges, false starts, and false hopes," Jones told the J Street crowd. "But the people of this region have suffered too long for this problem to be neglected."

Judging from the response, Jones delivered. Peace between the Israelis and Palestinians is not just a priority, he said. It's the top priority: "If there was any one problem I'd tell president he should solve, this would be it." (Presumably, Jones and Obama talk, so it's puzzling why he posed this conversation as a hypothetical.) Jones also tied a commitment to peace in Israel with efforts to keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. When it comes to preventing a nuclear armed Iran, he said, "Nothing is off the table."

Still, Jones's mere presence mattered almost more than his words. Only a year after its founding, J Street is no longer the obscure liberal lobby that could. It is an influential—and controversial—spokes-group for Jewish Americans who think the United States' approach to Israel has been too narrow. In its first six months, the group raised $580,000. (AIPAC's annual donations top $50 million.) Conservative members of the Jewish community have eyed the organization with suspicion, arguing that concessions in the name of peace put Israel in danger. Several members of Congress removed their names from the group's host committee in recent weeks. (One hundred forty-eight members remain on the list.) Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, declined an invitation to the conference, saying in a statement that the group took stances that "impair the interests of Israel." The White House's decision to send an emissary was thus considered a minor victory. "You can be sure that this administration will be represented at all other future events," Jones said, to applause… [emphasis added]

Inserted from <Slate>

Obama appears on the right page here, but his way ahead is tough, especially considering that the Netanyahu government is in power in Israel.  Netanyahu is the right winger, far more militaristic that Olmert.  Unfortunately, Israel’s version of left still sounds pretty right wing to me.

Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister during the Gaza war, would probably face arrest on war crimes charges if he visited Britain, according to a UK lawyer who is working to expand the application of "universal jurisdiction" for offences involving serious human rights abuses committed anywhere in the world.

Neither Olmert nor Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister during the Cast Lead offensive, and a member of Israel's war cabinet, would enjoy immunity from prosecution for alleged breaches of the Geneva conventions, predicted Daniel Machover, who is involved in intensifying legal work after the controversial Goldstone report on the three-week conflict. Neither are ministers any longer.

Prosecutions of Israeli political and military figures remain likely despite the failure to obtain an arrest warrant for Ehud Barak, the defence minister, when he visited the UK earlier this month, he said. In the Barak case a magistrate accepted advice from the Foreign Office that the minister enjoyed state immunity and rejected an application made on behalf of several residents of the Gaza Strip.

"This needs to be tested at the right time and in the right place," Machover said. "One day one of these people will make a mistake and go to the wrong country and face a criminal process — and then it'll be a matter for the courts of that country to give them a fair trial: that's what the Palestinian victims want."…

Inserted from <Common Dreams>

And this is what Israel calls liberal?  A war criminal?  And Netanyahu is nastier that this guy?  Good luck, Barack!  You’ll need it!

Kudos to J Street.  Time to kick AIPAC with their attendant American Taliban to the curb.

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