I came in concerned about the atmosphere at this conference. In 2009, at the first J Street national conference, there was a good deal of hope. Israel was facing great international pressure due to the onslaught on Gaza earlier in the year; President Obama had made it clear that he opposed Israeli settlements in a more substantive way than his predecessors; and that there was a real sense of urgency toward a two-state solution.
Now, the two-state solution seems to have been killed by Israel, Obama has shown that he will not get into fights about his Mideast policies and there is a general feeling of hopelessness about any diplomatic process. So what would this mean for J Street in 2011?
It seems like someone at J Street considered just that question. The decision to have Peter Beinart speak at their opening plenary was a no-brainer. But bringing Sarah Benninga and Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish was unexpected and turned out to be a very powerful way to begin the conference. Continue reading