The following excerpt is from an article by me and my partner Zoe Zenowich that was originally published on Alternet. You can read the full article here.
When the liberal “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobby J Street launched in 2008, it was big news. Coupled with a new presidential administration pledging sustained engagement on Israel/Palestine, the thought many had was that this was the moment a lasting peace deal could be forged between the Israelis and Palestinians.
J Street’s “No. 1 agenda item,” as founder and president Jeremy Ben-Ami told the New York Times in September 2009, was to “do whatever we can in Congress to act as the president’s blocking back.” J Street’s strategy of advocating “for urgent American diplomatic leadership to achieve a two-state solution” seemed on mark, given that President Barack Obama told the world in Cairo in June 2009 that he intended to “personally pursue” the two-state solution.
The goal of a two-state solution, in which Israel and a Palestinian state exist side-by-side, remains J Street’s message as around 2,400 activists gathered in Washington, D.C. last weekend for the group’s second annual conference. “It could not be more urgent for the administration to seize the initiative right now on peace and a two-state solution,” said J Street spokesman Isaac Luria.
But what happens when that goal, and the strategy of strong American leadership on the issue, seems out of reach? For some on the left, the current political situation means that J Street needs to adjust to the reality of fading prospects for a two-state solution.
While it’s clear, as blogger M.J. Rosenberg put it, that J Street has “opened up room” in the debate over Israel, progressive critics have called for new strategies to pressure Israel, such as the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Indeed, even some of J Street’s own constituents are frustrated with the Obama administration and are exploring more forceful ways to change Israeli behavior.