On the eve of President Joe Biden’s visit to Israel and Saudi Arabia, Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of the left-wing lobby J Street—which bills itself as “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace”—advised the president to “address the coming crisis between Israel and Palestine.”
Writing in The Washington Post, Ben-Ami expressed concern for the Palestinians alone. They are, he claimed, burdened by occupation, violence, injustice, settler violence, demolitions, evictions, annexation and so on.
Out of the entire article, six words—just six words—pointed a finger at the Palestinians: “Palestinian terrorism is on the rise.”
Ben-Ami further accused the Biden administration of reneging on its commitments to work towards a two-state solution and reopen the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem to serve the Palestinians. Yes, Ben-Ami admitted, Biden “will promote diplomatic ties between Israel and some of its neighbors.” But this is not enough for Ben-Ami. He warned, “There will be no true and lasting peace … without progress toward” a two-state solution.
Ben-Ami did not mention the Iranian threat to Israel and the Gulf states, Hamas and Hezbollah terrorism, attacks on Israel’s strategic gas rigs, Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas’ insistence on funding terrorists, Palestinian incitement or anti-Semitism.
Why did Ben-Ami make such glaring omissions? Was it because of impatience? Foolishness? Obligations to J Street donors and members? Who knows…
Sadly, the Palestinian state envisioned by Ben-Ami is a mirage. The P.A. proto-state is led by an 87-year-old dictator elected 17 years ago. Government corruption is rampant. The fish stinks from the head.
The proto-state’s security forces have no monopoly on “legitimate force.” They cannot police, register, produce or supervise weapons. Every clan, town, faction and thug has a militia armed to the teeth and sworn to fight Israel. One Palestinian militia rules Jenin, another Nablus and a third Hebron. Policing these militias unfortunately falls to the IDF, because the P.A. won’t do it. Hamas is now seeking to force itself into Judea and Samaria, and were it not for the IDF, they would succeed.
J Street claimed that the Abraham Accords might have “tangible benefits for Israel and some in the region,” but warned they also “provide cover for the Israeli right’s intention to permanently rule out Palestinian independence.” But given the P.A. as it exists today, few Israelis—right, left or ambidextrous—want a failed state on their border.
Ironically, the Abraham Accords could actually further Palestinian interests, and not only economically. For example, in internal Israeli discussions over the “annexation” of areas of Judea and Samaria, one Arab country convinced Israel to drop the idea in return for supporting the Accords.
A Palestinian editor and scholar, Bishara Bahbah, argued in Haaretz on July 11 that the Palestinians should join the Accords. He wrote, “The smart thing for the Palestinians is to join the Abraham Accords and leverage the influence of those Arab countries who are already members of the Accords to influence, and even pressure, Israel.”
In a message that should be sent to Ben-Ami, Bahbah added, “Unfortunately, senior Palestinian advisors close to President Mahmoud Abbas would automatically veto that course of action. To those Palestinian advisers and influencers, I say, ‘Wake up! Take advantage of the emerging political regional trend.’”
Wise men and women are needed to advise the Americans, Palestinians and Israelis. Do they exist? Not at J Street.
Lenny Ben-David served for 25 years in senior posts in AIPAC in Washington and Jerusalem. In 1997, he was appointed as Israel’s deputy chief of mission in the embassy in Washington, D.C., where he served until 2000 under three ambassadors and two prime ministers. He is the author of the book American Interests in the Holy Land Revealed in Early Photographs and editor of The Gaza War 2021: Hamas and Iran Attack Israel.