Dovish groups criticize Gaza attack

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Four dovish pro-Israel groups criticized Israel’s airstrikes in Gaza and called for U.S. efforts to end the violence.

J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Brit Tzedek v’Shalom and Israel Policy Forum all defended Israel’s right to strike Hamas installations in Gaza, but said that such actions would be counterproductive and damage Israel’s security in the long run. They all also called for intervention by the United States and the international community to restore a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

"While this morning’s airstrikes 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," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, in a statement.

We can already anticipate that this incursion will be yet another failed attempt to resolve this fundamentally political conflict by military means," said Diane Balser, executive director of Brit Tzedek, in a statement. "It is high time to break with this cycle; only through serious and sustained international diplomacy can the problems with Hamas and Gaza be resolved.

"Any real resolution to this crisis will require Israel and Hamas to engage, directly or indirectly, to achieve a cease-fire and to further engage in a post-cease-fire political process,” stated Debra DeLee, president and CEO of APN.

"The cycle of violence, which is now threatening to spiral out of control, runs counter to Israel’s long-term security, jeopardizes whatever progress has been made in talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority to reach an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, threatens American interests and exacerbates tensions throughout the Middle East," said IPF executive director Nick Bunzl.

The reactions of the four groups contrasted sharply with the statements released by the Jewish community’s two major umbrella groups, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. Both groups said Israel had little choice in the face of constant attacks on its citizens and did not call for any U.S. intervention.

“It is unfortunate that Israel has had to resort to airstrikes and is now grappling with a possible ground operation in the very area that it has tried hard to disengage from since 2005," said JCPA executive director Steve Gutow. "Israel has taken great lengths to avoid this sort of escalation, but was left with no other way to ensure that its civilians would not have to live in fear of rocket fire."

"We support the United States administration’s position that places the blame for Israel’s attack on Hamas and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence," said conference chair Harold Tanner and conference executive chair Malcolm Hoenlein in a statement. 

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