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J Street Urges U.S., Israel to Calm Down and Get Back to Work on a Two-State Solution

J Street, the progressive pro-Israel/pro-peace lobby group, has issued a statement urging both the Obama administration and the Israeli government to remember that they have a shared goal in “tackl[ing] a core issue at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians – the need to establish a border between Israel and the future Palestinian state.”

A recap: While in Israel last week for a goodwill tour right as word of “indirect talks” between the Israelis and Palestinians leaked out, Vice President Joe Biden was greeted with an announcement that Israel was expanding its settlements in a Palestinian part of East Jerusalem. Biden condemned the move, and was soon echoed by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who called Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and hectored him for 45 minutes about how provocative the move was. She added that she considered it an “insult to the United States.” Netanyahu faced an avalanche of criticism at home over the weekend, [leading him to finally say](http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/middleeast/la-fg-israel-tensions15-2010mar15,0,946130.story?track=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed:+latimes/middleeast+(L.A.+Times+-+Middle+East)), “There was a regrettable incident, that was done in all innocence and was hurtful.” Laura Rozen passes on word of a Haaretz story reporting that Michael Oren, Netanyahu’s ambassador to Washington, considers this moment a crisis in U.S.-Israeli relations and wants to get the message out that Netanyahu didn’t mean to insult Biden.

Enter J Street. The lobby group issued a statement this morning urging both sides to get past the tension and focus on its source: the need to establish the borders of a Palestinian state. “We must not lose further time allowing a single development, as objectionable as it may be, to derail progress towards achieving a two-state solution,” the group said. Meanwhile, two lobby groups to J Street’s right, the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC, criticized the Obama administration for the deterioration in relations, with AIPAC urging Obama to take a “conscious effort to move away from public demands and unilateral deadlines directed at Israel.” It’s as if the organization, at whose conference next week Clinton will speak, forgot that the whole thing started with Israel humiliating Biden, a staunch ally of Israel for decades. And as if AIPAC forgets that Israel is pursuing much greater settlement expansion than just what was announced last week.

Here’s J Street’s full statement:

The recent escalation of tension between the United States and Israel – sparked by Israel’s announcement regarding 1600 housing units in East Jerusalem – is a matter of serious concern to J Street and Israel’s friends generally.

Preventing provocative actions which undermine the peace process and decisions which weaken U.S. credibility in the region is also a matter of fundamental American national security interest, particularly as the U.S. government works to build a broad international coalition to address the Iranian nuclear program.

The United States is Israel’s closest ally. Their special relationship is rooted in shared interests and values and enjoys broad bipartisan support in Washington and across the country.

That is all the more reason why the Obama administration’s reaction to the treatment of the Vice President last week and to the timing and substance of the Israeli government’s announcement was both understandable and appropriate.

As Vice President Biden said, “Sometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth.” That is what he, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and White House Senior Advisor David Axelrod have done in recent days – and J Street, along with many friends of Israel, stands solidly behind them.

The important question for us is how the present situation can be turned into an opportunity to tackle a core issue at the heart of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians – the need to establish a border between Israel and the future Palestinian state.

Fixing borders would eliminate the need to deal further with issues related to settlements on the West Bank or building in East Jerusalem.

We urge the United States to take this opportunity to suggest parameters to the parties for resuming negotiations – basing borders on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, with the Palestinian state demilitarized and on territory equivalent to 100% of the area encompassed by the pre-1967 Armistice lines.

Too much time has already been lost in getting the two sides into negotiations. We must not lose further time allowing a single development, as objectionable as it may be, to derail progress towards achieving a two-state solution.

Bold American leadership is needed now to turn this crisis into a real opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is a fundamental American national security interest.

The Obama administration will find vast support among American Jews and other friends of Israel for a bold new approach that aims to advance that interest and guarantees Israel a secure, democratic and Jewish future.

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