Overheard at the 2013 J Street Conference
Nancy Pelosi called a two-state solution ‘essential to U.S. national security’
• The conference closed Monday evening with a keynote address from U.S. Special Envoy Martin Indyk, in which he announced new economic measures in the Palestinian Territories including the loosening of the Gaza blockade and the opening of the Allenby Bridge for 24 hours per day, five days a week. Indyk also told guests that talks between Israelis and Palestinians will be intensified over the coming months, with the United States being activity involved in that process. The evening also featured an unannounced appearance by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who called the two-state solution “essential to U.S. national security.”
• In a briefing on Sunday, Tzachi Hanegbi of the Likud party informed reporters that a “creative solution” to the problem of Jerusalem could be found whereby the Arab neighbourhoods would be placed under Palestinian control, but refused to label it a division. “Look, you’re afraid that Jerusalem will be divided? No, it’s going to be some creative idea that will allow them to have their own sovereignty in their neighborhoods and to declare whatever they want to declare about it, and we will have sovereignty over other parts,” Hanegbi stated.
• On Jerusalem, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told me that it is not a problem that their position it not in line with the views of Netanyahu, Lapid, or Livni. “J Street can be heard and have credibility and have disagreements,” he said. “It is doesn’t depend on lockstep agreement with the Israeli government. If we are a step ahead of the Israeli position, we can play a useful role,” Ben-Ami concluded, describing J Street as a ‘vanguard.’
• Meretz chair Zehava Gal-On told delegates Monday that “racist and zealous groups of settlers living in isolated outposts in the West Bank” have a “tight stronghold on Netanyahu” and are the obstacle to peace. The settlers “hold power over the Israeli establishment,” she said, forcing “the government to fund new construction in the West Bank.” Gal-On added that those who do not support the two-state solution, “those who prefer subjugation and discrimination over human rights and democracy, who believe that belonging to the chosen people means you can discriminate against non-Jews, they are the real dangerous anti-Zionists.”
• Seated next to Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin, Labor’s Merav Michaeli stated to reporters Sunday that it is Bayit Yehudi, not the Haredim, who are the main ‘obstacle’ in the way of “liberating Judaism in Israel today.” Naftali Bennett’s party, she said, “fight civil marriage and the separation of church and state” and have “a veto over all religious decisions today.” On Iran, Michaeli said that Netanyahu is blinded by a wish for “Iran to forfeit” and “Israel to win”. “This has become a kneejerk, unfortunately. We need to realise that it is okay to negotiate. We don’t always have to win. If it is possible to reach the diplomatic solution, it is always better.”
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