Local group touts 2-state solution in Israel

Posted Jan. 28, 2010, at 11:33 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — A new organization devoted to a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be launched next week at a celebration of Israeli culture.

The kickoff for J Street Eastern Maine will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 4, at the Dyke Center for Family Business at Husson University. The event will include a light dinner of Israeli food with live music and dancing.

“By growing the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement in eastern Maine, we aim to create the political space in our community for a vibrant discussion of how to best secure Israel’s future,” said Barbara Kates, chairwoman of the Bangor-based group. “We look forward to engaging and mobilizing our community as effective advocates for a two-state solution and true peace and security for Israel.”

A simulcast of remarks by J Street’s executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, also will be part of the evening’s activities.

“We’re thrilled that local leaders and activists in the Bangor area will enhance J Street’s advocacy for strong U.S. efforts to achieve peace and security in the Middle East,” Ben-Ami said earlier this month in a news release announcing the event. “A grassroots network of pro-Israel, pro-peace advocates is an essential component of our work in pursuit of a two-state solution and a regional, comprehensive peace.”

Established in 2008, the nonprofit J Street describes itself as the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement. It merged last fall with Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, a similar organization with many of the same goals. The eastern Maine chapter of that group next week will become affiliated with J Street.

The group also has its own political action committee, which raises money for candidates who support its positions. The organization also has an arm devoted to education on the issue.

“J Street was founded to change the dynamics of American politics and policy on Israel and the Middle East,” its Web site says. “We believe the security and future of Israel as the democratic home of the Jewish people depend on rapidly achieving a two-state solution and regional comprehensive peace. Our mission is to promote meaningful American leadership to achieve peace and security in the Middle East and to broaden the debate of these issues nationally and in the Jewish community.”

J Street supports:

— A negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

— Diplomatic solutions over military ones.

— Multilateral over unilateral approaches to conflict resolution.

— Dialogue over confrontation.

The New York Times has described J Street as the “new Israel lobby” with “progressive views on Israel.”

Although using the letter J in its name may suggest a Jewish cause, in Washington, D.C., K Street is shorthand for lobbyists because many of them have offices on that street. According to The New York Times, there is no J Street between I and K streets in the nation’s capital.

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