Washington D.C. – Steven Krubiner and Daniel Kalik are refreshingly hopeful and determined. Hopeful to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict come to an end, and determined to build consensus around the idea of a “Two-State solution” as the only means to achieve a sustainable peace.
Steven, J Street’s Chief of Staff, started this Zorba session by explaining that this “Two-State solution” can only be seen as a viable option if U.S. leadership is strongly engaged in it. J Street advocates for this solution as the only one that can truly allow Israel to survive as a State in the long run. However, perceptions in the U.S.—especially during election time, as it was recently proven—are misguided: many politicians believe that a “hawkish” support for Israel will bring votes and campaign-money. According to Daniel Kalik, J Street’s Director of Political Affairs, this is not reflected in the numbers: poll numbers show that American Jews do not vote based on Israel, with a consistent 70% voting Democrats over the past elections, no sight of a “swing vote”, and high numbers supporting the “Two-State” as the preferred solution.
Thus, one of the main goals of J Street is to change the meaning of what being “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestinian” is commonly understood to be, by advocating for solutions that can truly bring sustainable peace and security to the region. Dan insisted on this point by describing military means to resolve a political conflict as clearly insufficient—diplomacy is a tool that can never be disregarded. A case in point, according to Daniel, is the most recent outburst in Gaza, where radicals from all sides claim success in their strategies while moderates are by and large perceived to be the losers.
Consequently, if achieving the two-state solution through diplomacy is key, the recent developments at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) need to be thoroughly evaluated. Daniel and Steven told the participants of this Zorba session that J Street did not take a position on the recent status given to the Palestinians by the UNGA, but that it is advocating that all sides, particularly the United States, focus on taking steps to advance a final-status agreement. Their current efforts center around supporting strong US diplomatic leadership on ending the conflict and condemning retaliatory measures that either the US or Israel takes that undermines moderates like Palestinian President Abbas or the viability of future two-state agreement —e.g. building new settlements (particularly in sensitive areas) and congressional action that seeks to kick the Palestinian Mission out of Washington, DC or cut aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The session concluded with a round of questions and answers that touched upon many other components of the complex Israeli-Palestinian scenario, such as the role of Iran, solutions to the refugee problem, Palestinian demographics, internal Israeli politics, Jewish political fundraising in the U.S., and the role of the international media, among others.
Steven and Daniel finished up this Zorba as they started it: hopeful and determined to see Israel secure by securing two states.