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J Street Cheers U.S. Rebuke of Benjamin Netanyahu

J Street leaders said they would back the Obama administration as it reconsiders how it deals with Israel in international arenas.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group’s president, lauded the new approach at the outset of its annual conference Saturday in Washington.

“We are very glad to hear the Obama administration is reconsidering its approach to the Israeli Palestinian conflict,” Ben-Ami said.

President Barack Obama has said he is reevaluating U.S. diplomacy in the wake of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim on the eve of March 17 elections that there would not be a Palestinian state while he was prime minister.

Obama has not elaborated, but media have quoted U.S. officials as saying that moves could include presenting the parameters of a final status outcome at the United Nations and no longer vetoing U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on Israel to halt settlement expansion.

“It is time for the United States to restate the view it has always had that settlements are illegal and its time to give action to those words,” Ben-Ami said, adding that the organization continued to back the close defense relationship between the United States and Israel.

Morton Halperin, the head of J Street’s board, said that Netanyahu’s reelection was clarifying, citing his ostensible pivot on two states as well as his call on election day for Likud voters to turn out to counter Arabs who were voting. He said Netanyahu’s retreat from those positions after the position was not credible.

“We cannot proceed as if we believe in the third incarnation of Netanyahu and believe he wants a two-state solution, or to believe that he is not a racist, and we must react to this new reality,” he said.

J Street is also launching a campaign to encourage Jewish organizations to distinguish between Israel and the West Bank, including in fundraising.

“We plan to challenge Jewish communal institutions to remember the physical and symbolic significance of the ‘green line,’” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, the liberal Jewish Middle East policy group’s president, at the outset of its annual conference Saturday in Washington.

Among questions Ben-Ami encouraged the 3,000 activists present to ask was whether Jewish fund-raising reached West Bank settlements.

“Do the Jewish institutions that you give money to, does your money stay within the green line?” he said. He also encouraged the activists, including over 1,000 students, to replace maps of Israel in Jewish institutions with maps that clearly delineate Israel and the West Bank.

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