There appears to be a slight disagreement among pro-Israel groups on the left. Monday, Americans for Peace Now (along with Brit Tzedek v’Shalom) urged senators not to sign a AIPAC-backed letter to the president that encourages the Arab world to normalize ties with Israel because it does not mention efforts to halt Israeli settlements. Tuesday, J Street stopped short of APN, putting out a statement that did not take a specific position on the letter circulated by Sens. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) and James Risch (R-Idaho), but seeming to suggest that senators might want to think about adding some language on settlements. An excerpt of the statement by J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami:
J Street believes that, as the letter expresses, normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab states is an important step toward "ushering in a new era of peace and security in the Middle East." We agree with those who say that all sides to the conflict must take steps now in the direction of peace and normalization if we are to seize this moment of opportunity for progress toward resolving the conflict. We also agree with those who believe it is unhelpful to place the onus for progress solely on one of the parties, and support the administration’s strategy of seeking compromises from all of the parties for the sake of peace.
As President Obama made clear both in his Cairo speech and at his meeting with Jewish American leaders, the Arab states, the Palestinians, and the Israelis all have important responsibilities to fulfill in order to achieve a two-state solution and a comprehensive regional peace. This includes Arab moves toward normalization with Israel, Palestinian steps to end incitement to violence, and an Israeli settlement freeze in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
As Members of Congress consider whether to speak out publicly on the issue – as in the Bayh-Risch letter – we urge them to use language that makes clear the broad range of actors who have responsibilities to help the President’s efforts to resolve the conflict. It is important that such language include support for the long-standing US policy of a settlement halt so that serious negotiations can begin on a real resolution.