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Friday, May 11, 2012

J Street crosses a red line for supporters of Israel

Some of you may recall a letter to the Jewish Advocate by Paul Sassieni, in which he reported that J Street had said that it might not support Israel in the event of a war with Iran. J Street attempted to 'set the record straight.' Sassieni exposes their lies and shows how they have crossed a red line for real supporters of Israel. (Hat Tip: Lance K).
Ben-Ami cites several concerns about a preemptive strike on Iran. I share these concerns, but one can also find credible security experts on the other side of the argument. I would add that the prospect of the failure of sanctions and diplomacy is as dire as the failure of a military strategy.

However, J Street goes further than this. It would even “oppose [emphasis added] legislation authorizing, encouraging, or in other ways laying the groundwork [emphasis added] for the use of military force against Iran.” Let’s give J Street the benefit of the doubt and assume that it only opposes preparations for a pre-emptive strike. I am in no way advocating pre-emptive strikes. I’m simply saying as an American that I would feel much safer knowing our armed forces are prepared for all eventualities including pre-emptive strikes – a feeling that would be amplified if I were Israeli, given the existential threat and belligerent rhetoric of the Iranian regime.

Opposing even preparations for a pre-emptive strike is dangerous because it in effect takes the military option off the table, takes the pressure off Iran and makes sanctions and diplomacy less likely to succeed. Therefore, J Street’s position could make war more likely, not less.

My second point of disagreement with Ben-Ami regards second-guessing an Israeli government on security issues. Ben-Ami’s states that “Israel – the country and the people – can always count on J Street’s support. Its policymakers, however, shouldn’t expect unquestioning support for controversial decisions that we believe [emphasis added] run counter to the best interests of Israel, the United States and the Jewish people.”

Israel is a democracy, and the government represents the collective will of the people. Israelis criticize their leaders constantly; when they want to change their government, they do. Who is J Street to say what is in the best interest of Israel on security matters over and above the heads of the Israelis, as represented by their government? It’s worth noting that J Street’s broader platform reflects a segment of the Israeli electorate that has been resoundingly defeated in recent years.

It’s possible, but probably unlikely, that Israelis might elect a government that shares J Street’s view that Israel should not make preparations for all possible scenarios – including a pre-emptive strike. While supporters of Israel do not need to agree with every government policy, we nonetheless should defer to the collective judgment of the Israelis and their elected government on matters of vital security.

As a former director of Israel Defense Forces intelligence, Amos Yadlin, said, “Going from ‘it’s too early’ to ‘it’s too late’ is a very fine line.” Ben-Ami and J Street have no credentials in terms of military expertise or democratic legitimacy for deciding where that line should be.

American support for Israel – its people and government – is based on the strategic relationship between the two democracies and our shared values and interests. While Israel advocacy does not preclude criticism of Israeli government policies, there are some fundamental red lines; namely that Israelis are in the best position to determine their security interests, and that in the event of war, we stand in unity with the people of Israel and their government – not blindly, but without fail.

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