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J Street criticizes Israeli strikes

The Jewish community’s two main public policy umbrella organizations — the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs — both were quick to issue staments in support of Israel’s retaliatory strikes against Hamas in Gaza. In contrast, the new lobbying group J Street issued a statement criticizing the Israeli attacks, predicting that they "will deepen the cycle of violence in the region."

J Street’s statement comes just days after the annoucement that its executive director, Jerry Ben-Ami, will be a speaker at JCPA’s upcoming convention:

December 27, 2008

STATEMENT BY Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director, on Israeli Airstrikes in Gaza

While this morning’s air strikes by Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza can be understood and even justified in the wake of recent rocket attacks, we believe that real friends of Israel recognize that escalating the conflict will prove counterproductive, igniting further anger in the region and damaging long-term prospects for peace and stability.

Respecting Israel’s right to defend itself, we urge leaders there to recognize that there is no military solution to what is fundamentally a political conflict between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.

Today’s IDF strikes will deepen the cycle of violence in the region.

Retaliation is inevitable, though we don’t know how far the violence will spread or how many more Israelis and Palestinians will die and suffer in the days and weeks to come. 

We call for immediate, strong diplomatic intervention by the United States, the Quartet and allies in the region to negotiate a resumption of the ceasefire which dramatically reduced violence and preserved quiet for over five months. 

The United States, the Quartet, and the world community must not wait — as they did in the Israel-Lebanon crisis of 2006 — for weeks to pass and hundreds or thousands more to die before intervening.  There needs to be an urgent end to the new hostilities that brings a complete cessation to the rocket fire out of Gaza and that allows food, fuel and other civilian necessities into Gaza.

The need for diplomatic engagement goes beyond a short-term ceasefire. Eight years of American neglect and ineffective diplomacy have led us directly to a moment when the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hang in the balance and with them the prospects for Israel’s long-term survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

We urge the incoming Obama administration to lead an early and serious effort to achieve a comprehensive diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli conflicts. 

This is a fundamental American interest as we too stand to suffer as the situation spirals, rage in the region is directed at the United States, and our regional allies are further undermined.  Our goals must be a Middle East that moves beyond bloody conflicts, an Israel that is secure and accepted in the region, and an America secured by reducing extremism and enhancing stability.  None of these goals are achieved by further escalation.

Even in the heat of battle, as friends and supporters of Israel, we need to remember that only diplomacy and negotiations can end the rockets and terror and bring Israel long-term security and peace.

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