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J Street: Maybe ‘Israel Really Ain’t a Very Good Idea’

Obama’s favorite Middle East lobby drops the mask.

1:55 PM, Mar 15, 2011 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Lori Lowenthal Marcus, president of Z Street, has done some excellent reporting on the recent 2011 J Street conference in Washington. J Street, an invention of Obama allies, has been feted at the White House, and addressed by senior Obama administration officials. It’s Obama’s favorite Jewish group.

And here’s a sample of the discussion at J Street’s recent annual meeting, first reported by Marcus:

Daniel Levy, a founder of J Street: Look, bottom line: If we’re all wrong, if we’re all wrong and a collective Jewish presence in the Middle East can only survive by the sword, it cannot be accepted, it’s not about what we do. Sound familiar? They hate us for what we are, not what we do. If that’s true, then Israel really ain’t a very good idea.

Marcus writes:

Are we there yet?  Is this clear statement by one of J Street's founders -- that if the Arabs will force Israel to defend herself, then the Jews should abandon the Middle East -- enough to prove that J Street is not "pro-Israel" at all?  Is this confession enough to enable (or force) people to see that it is this belief: that the Jews are simply wrong to defend themselves ever, including against Gazan terrorism or a nuclear Iran, that constitutes the foundation of J Street? 

The context, of course, matters, and the context is even more damning. Marcus goes on:

Levy was discussing the US policy implications of the Middle East uprisings at a J Street conference prime time plenary session in the huge double ballroom of the Washington Convention Center.  The other members of this panel included Bernard Avishai, who suggested, at 50:40, there should be an Obama Blueprint in which Obama organizes world opinion to pressure Israel into making real concessions to the Palestinians, and Roger Cohen, a New York Times columnist who seemed to suggest that it was the financial muscle of the nefarious Israel Lobby that forced the US to veto the recent United Nations Security Council Resolution condemning Israel.  Cohen hoped Obama would extract a pound of Israeli flesh, or at least thousands of dunums, in exchange for that "favor."  At 1:17:30.

President Obama has shown an amazing lack of concern for foreign policy in general—for America’s standing in the world, for its traditional role as an advocate for freedom and democracy, and for its moral leadership in international institutions. But there is one thing he does seem to care deeply about: that Jews not build houses anywhere beyond the armistice lines that were left in 1949 after Israel fought off numerous Arab armies that intended to destroy her at birth. This doesn’t mean he agrees with Daniel Levy that “Maybe...Israel really ain’t a good idea.” It does mean that true friends of Israel need to keep a close eye on this J Street-friendly American administration.  

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