WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman severed ties with J Street over its call on the Obama administration not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution on settlements.
"After learning of J Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective U.N. Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process on Israel, and — critically — would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come to the conclusion that J Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated," Ackerman (D-N.Y.) said in a statement Tuesday.
"The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the U.N. Security Council is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help," he said. "It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out. America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J Street ain’t it."
Ackerman’s agreement to accept J Street’s endorsement was a prize for the progressive pro-Israel group in the November elections: He is Jewish, from New York and his pro-Israel record is considered second to none. In the last Congress he was chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Middle East committee.
In recent years, Ackerman has questioned what he has said were missed opportunities by the United States and Israel to engage with moderate Palestinians, which seemed to make him a natural fit for a group that backs U.S. pressure on Israel as a means of protecting the viability of a two-state solution.
Like other members of Congress, Ackerman was known to have come under intense pressure from some conservative pro-Israel sources and donors during the election to cut off J Street.
The group responded to Ackerman’s statement by saying it was "deeply pained" and that Ackerman had misrepresented its position.
"We do not ‘support’ U.N. condemnation of Israel or endorse this resolution," a statement said. "We have urged the United States to consider withholding its veto from a resolution criticizing Israeli settlement activity — a resolution that closely tracks the policy of the United States under the last eight administrations.
"Second, the resolution expresses support for a two-state solution and stresses the urgency of achieving a just, comprehensive and lasting peace. It calls on both parties to improve the situation on the ground, build confidence, and create conditions necessary for promoting the peace process. The resolution does not, as the Congressman implies, place the ‘whole responsibility for the current impasse in the peace process’ on Israel — and neither does J Street.
"Third, the resolution calls on both parties to continue negotiations on final status issues."