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Ben-Ami throws down gauntlet (to Bibi?): Time to talk two-state tachlis

At last night’s kickoff to the J Street national conference, the group’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, announced the launch of the new “2 Campaign,” which aims to advance a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The time has come, however, for a campaign that moves beyond just lip service, beyond simply expressing support for two states, to defining what it actually means and what it’s really going to take,” Ben-Ami said.

Ben-Ami noted the now wide support for a two-state solution: “Even established organizations like AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee, and federations count themselves as two-state supporters. That means we now have a new challenge: to help those who have adopted the language of two states to understand and get behind what it really is going to take to get there.”

And then he threw down the gauntlet: “For instance, how can you support a two-state solution and not be willing to talk about making the Palestinian neighborhoods of Jerusalem the capital of the new state of Palestine? How can you support a two-state solution yet refuse to acknowledge that the border’s going to be drawn upon the pre-’67 armistice lines with minor agreed-upon land swaps? How can you say you support the two-state solution and call those pre-’67 borders ‘indefensible’ or be unwilling to talk about evacuating settlements and bringing settlers home to within the eventual borders of the State of Israel?”

Hmm… One wonders if Ben-Ami has anyone in particular in mind? Well, Ben-Ami didn’t mention anyone by name, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did have a late-career conversion to the two-state solution (the sincerity of which has been questioned by some on the right and some on the left). And Netanyahu has also been adamant that Jerusalem will not be divided, has called the 1967 lines “indefensible” and at various points seemed to reject the idea of settlement evacuation.

Ben-Ami also threw down a gauntlet for the Palestinians, insisting that they must “similarly” acknowledge that Palestinian refugees and their descendants will not be returning to Israel and that “there won’t be an agreement unless Israel’s security concerns are addressed,” meaning, he explained, that a Palestinian state will likely have to be demilitarized with an international security presence on its borders. In contrast to Netanyahu’s stances on the aforementioned issues, these are positions that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has either embraced (in the case of demilitarization and international forces) or appeared to nod at least part way toward (in the case of refugees — even if he then backed away in response to Palestinian anger).

J Street, Ben-Ami announced, will be committing an immediate $1 million to a national advertising effort for the 2 Campaign, along with a petition drive and educational efforts in synagogues and Jewish communities.

Ben-Ami’s remarks on the 2 Campaign begin around the one-hour and 2-minute mark:

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