By Larry Gordon
It is easy to complain about what the Obama administration is trying to accomplish in the current negotiations taking place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. There is an obvious inequity and imbalance to the approach, and it strikes many of us as just plain wrong. But at the same time, many of us feel there is not much we can do about it except voice our objections when we discuss these issues with friends or colleagues.
It has been obvious from the start of the process that unless Israel makes significant concessions on the ground, the talks will not move forward. This means that once again Israel is being pressured to get involved in radical maneuvers to facilitate a process that would be shaky and uncertain.
Amongst those things Israel is being prodded to do is relinquish the Old City of Jerusalem to the Palestinians so that they can declare that part of the city as the capital of what would be their new state. In addition, Israel is being asked to evacuate some tens of thousands of residents of Judea and Samaria because land that may someday become part of this new state cannot tolerate the presence of Jews and cannot be considered truly Arab if Jews are present.
The basis and precedent for the Arab expression of this prejudicial policy may stem from the Israeli policy on the matter of Jewish presence and Jewish prayer on the Temple Mount, which is being debated this week in the Knesset.
This idea should render negotiations like these pointless and useless, but, at America’s insistence, Israel plugs away and carries on pretending that somewhere down the road some kind of agreement can be reached that will officially, once and for all, end the conflict.
It is unlikely that any of this would be taking place today if President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry were capable of seeing things as they are. And that is where the criticism and the complaining come into the picture. But as you can see, the “being outraged by an unfair and imbalanced approach” really accomplishes very little, if anything at all.
That is why I am joining some 15,000 other Americans from every part of the country at next week’s AIPAC Conference. This annual event is about not complaining from the outside or from the distance. It is about going to Washington, DC for a few days and getting involved with the mechanics of how the U.S. works, how its internal mechanisms function, and doing our individual utmost to recalibrate and reset some of the things that we do not like and expressing encouragement and support for the things we are supportive of.
Most importantly, this annual AIPAC event sends a strong message to the White House that there is an active and involved Jewish community out there that does not stand idle as Israel is pressured to commit to make moves and take steps that do not best serve her citizens.
Additionally, a vital aspect of the conference is for us as American citizens, activists, and voters, to demonstrate how a strong and secure Israel is also a matter of U.S. strategic interests. These are trying times, but rest assured that there is little else we can do that makes an impression on par with taking precious time and showing up. So when 15,000 individuals set aside whatever they are doing in their everyday lives, it makes a significant impression that is taken seriously not only in the White House but throughout the world.
And this is a special and unique aspect of the relationship that exists today between the vibrant U.S. Jewish community and the state of Israel. And it is not just that 15,000 are coming together in the nation’s capital. It is that these thousands are people who lead or in some fashion or will report back to many thousands more back in their home states. Calculating those numbers exponentially produces quite impressive and powerful figures.
I will be able to report from a more crystallized vantage point after the conference is over, but for now let it suffice to say that this conference or mission is not just a lobbying trip to Washington. It is probing the depths of the way America functions and operates. It is a sterling display of the power and influence of “We the people.”
Washington, DC, is America’s seat of power. It is where policy, both foreign and domestic, is made. It is where you can show the president and the Congress the nature and extent of your determination and commitment to any number of issues. And it is no surprise that at the top of that heap of issues is Israel, peace, and the future of Israel–U.S. relations. And that is why AIPAC is so important. In the past, President Obama and Vice-President Biden have addressed the AIPAC crowds. Who knows—perhaps the president or vice president will pop in this year as well?
At next week’s conference, the delegates will be addressed by Secretary of State John Kerry. Mr. Kerry will no doubt talk about the administration’s commitment to peace, the two-state solution, and the unshakable bond, as they like to refer to it, that exists between the U.S. and Israel. That the bond they refer to and the Palestinian view of a two-state solution are incompatible is not something that anyone seems interested in addressing, at this point anyway. And perhaps it is premature to do that kind of speculating, regardless of how clear that perception is.
He will also speak about Iran and its continued pursuit of a nuclear weapon despite commitments to the contrary. Israel’s defense minister referred to Kerry as being “obsessive” and “messianic” when it comes to pursuing this particular peace process with Israel. What will not get mentioned is that after almost six years as president, a chance for Middle East peace is President Obama’s only hope for success in a sea of policies, both foreign and domestic, without any momentum.
Mr. Kerry will say some wonderful and flattering things about Israel and the support that emanates for the country from the American Jewish community. But then his actions on the ground will most likely contradict a significant portion of the words he will utter next week in Washington.
On Monday, Prime Minister Netanyahu will address the conference at the Washington DC Convention Center after a meeting with Mr. Obama at the White House. Mr. Netanyahu will tell it like it is in his inimitable and eloquent style. Thankfully, at this stage of the game and with the midterm elections coming up, the prime minister will be able to speak openly and forcefully about issues like Iran and the imperative that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
More than 200 senators and congressmen will either address or be present at some point at sessions during the conference. Support for Israel in Congress is overwhelming and differs dramatically from that of the current administration. Yes, it is an exercise of Jewish power and influence at a time in history that it has never been more important. I’m looking forward to reporting next week from the AIPAC Conference. v
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.