Thursday, March 31, 2011
Next week, Meretz will elect its new Secretary General, Executive Board and Convention Presidium. We all hope that The new Secretary General and Institutions will lead the party to ... enable it's rebuilding towards the next Knesset elections.
Last week, Haim (Jumes) Oron, Meretz Chairman, resigned from the Knesset after 23 years of impressive and widely appreciated parliamentary work. Jumes did not resign his position as Meretz Chairman, and will go on with this position working towards rebuilding Meretz and the Israeli peace camp. Oron's resignation enabled Zehava Galon to re-enter the Knesset, after a two-year hiatus following the last elections. Galon used [this] hiatus to work on her PhD in Gender Studies at the Bar Ilan University. Prior to this period Galon was a highly appreciated Knesset member for 10 years – 1999-2009.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Indeed, what is Bibi actually offering here? Settlements continue to chew up space in the West Bank, more settlements are quickly rendering moot the old Clinton formulation in Jerusalem of “what is Jewish is Israel’s and what is Arab is Palestinian,” Bibi has made it clear that Israel must remain in the Jordan Valley and that Israel will not relinquish far-flung settlements like Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel which cut deep into the West Bank and compromise territorial contiguity. What’s left of a Palestinian “state” in Bibi’s vision is barely scraps.
[There is a much shorter piece excerpted from Gidi Weitz's long interview: Meretz chairman: Barak is the most dangerous person in Israel. Oron: "Barak has caused harm to the Israeli left by making it appear there is no Palestinian partner for peace...."]
A companion piece was published in Ha'Aretz by Boaz Gaon and Jonathan Gurfinkel. Also long and thoughtful, it needs to be read after you read the Oron interview. It may be the call to action that is so needed. Please take time to read both of these pieces.--Lilly
Saturday, March 26, 2011
1) The relations between Israel and its neighbors, particularly the Palestinians, given the changing currents in the Middle East
2) The situation within Israel, in terms of the anti-democratic thrust of the current government, and questions regarding Israel's democratic future
3) The future of Israel's left
In all these areas, Chazan stressed the great fluidity and flux of the current period, which is one of great transition. Transitional periods, she noted, tend to be short, and they also set the stage for much lengthier periods in which change does not come as easily. As a result, the upcoming 6-12 months are going to be crucial for Israel's future.
Friday, March 25, 2011
The following is part of his article, "We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Conflict," at the Foreign Policy website:
"... Whatever the reason for Hamas's obvious lack of restraint in recent weeks, it is not helping the party's reputation in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. Its popularity among Palestinians continues to decline: A mid-March opinion poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research had Hamas support at a mere 33 percent of people in Gaza and 21 percent in the West Bank. Fatah, on the other hand, enjoys 42 percent support in Gaza and 39 percent in the West Bank. Hamas's brutal crackdown on national unity rallies in Gaza on March 15, including the killing of at least one female protester, further discredited the organization. Perhaps Hamas hopes that another confrontation with Israel would bolster its foundering domestic credentials.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
It begins in Hebrew, in the studio and then goes on the scene to Nablus, where random individuals speak in Arabic, Hebrew or English. Have patience, most (but not quite all) of the dialogue is sub-titled in English:
Monday, March 21, 2011
He has a wonderful bookstore in the American Colony Hotel and often hosts author evenings with Israelis and Palestinians; he has twice hosted my friend Daniel Gavron at the bookstore. He defied many Palestinians who were arguing against meetings with Israelis while the occupation lasts.
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Rosenblatt begins with a very nuanced reference to Theodore Bikel (Meretz USA's board chair, pictured at left) who supports the boycott by Israeli performers of the new theater in the settlement of Ariel. As Rosenblatt indicates, Bikel is against any boycott of Israel proper. This column is entitled "Advocacy Gone Awry" and includes the following subhead: "Bid against JCC in Manhattan film festival part of disturbing trend."
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
.... 250 women, both Israeli citizens and Palestinians from the West Bank (in roughly equal numbers), spent the day discussing ways to practice civil disobedience. ...
Fida Arar and Ghadeer Abu Ayyash, from Beit Ommar, and Yusra Hammam of Hussan described in detail the suffering of Palestinian women at the checkpoints on the way to work. In addition to the burden of providing for their families (with fathers and husbands often imprisoned or unable to get work) they are forced to spend long hours in line on a daily basis, and to undergo often humiliating searches. The Palestinian women also called attention to the impoverished status of women within Palestinian society, and called upon women to insist on their rights for education and more freedom of choice.
Sara Beninga, an activist in the Sheikh Jarrah Solidarity Movement, focused on the political investigation initiated by the Israeli police against the activists. Crying slogans against the occupation is now labeled as
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
.... Netanyahu has stubbornly refused the appeals of Washington and of the Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad, who have shown themselves willing to make the concessions needed for a peace deal. In the midst of a revolution in the Arab world, Netanyahu seems lost, defensive, and unable or unwilling to recognize the changing circumstances in which he finds himself.
The occupation—illegal, inhumane, and inconsistent with Jewish values—has lasted forty-four years. Netanyahu thinks that he can keep on going, secure behind a wall. Late last month, he called the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, to register his displeasure that Germany had voted for a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Jewish settlements. ...
Netanyahu told Merkel that he intends to give a speech in the next few weeks supporting an interim Palestinian state on about half the territory of the West Bank. If that is his plan, it will be unacceptable to the Palestinians, and he knows it. Smug and lacking in diplomatic creativity, Netanyahu has alienated and undermined the forces of progressivism in the West Bank and is, step by ugly step, deepening Israel’s isolation.
Monday, March 14, 2011
Tu Quoque is a very common fallacy in which one attempts to defend oneself or another from criticism by turning the critique back against the accuser. This is a classic Red Herring since whether the accuser is guilty of the same, or a similar, wrong is irrelevant to the truth of the original charge. However, as a diversionary tactic, Tu Quoque can be very effective, since the accuser is put on the defensive, and frequently feels compelled to defend against the accusation.We sort of get into a chicken or egg argument here, because--by invoking the issue of Arab antisemitism--Werner is deflecting from criticisms of Israeli policies on settlements, housing demolitions and other discriminatory practices brought up by our pro-Israel/pro-peace camp. He accuses me of doing what old Stalinists did in the 1930s, when they would fend off revelations of the murderous purges and other crimes of the Soviet regime by denouncing the lynchings of Blacks in the US South.
Werner indicates from data compiled by the Pew polling firm that about 95% of Arab public opinion is antisemitic, and that Arab school texts preach hatred. My rejoinder was that Israeli schools don't teach about the Palestinian-Arab experience, that new Palestinian Authority texts are better (although still insufficient) than the old ones in use-- ironically, while under Israel's control before Oslo--and that Jewish anti-Arab prejudice is on the rise. He responded as follows:
Sunday, March 13, 2011
Meretz USA is outraged by the horrible murder of Udi and Ruth Fogel, and their children, 11 year-old Yoav, 4 year-old Elad and 3 month-old Hadas in the settlement of Itamar. We are repulsed not only by the unspeakable violence involved, but by the unimaginable act of dehumanization that allowed the terrorist to slaughter not just civilians, but young children in their sleep. No political context can justify such a crime.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Allow me to share this from a British Jew, Hannah Weisfeld, who offered "five new guidelines for the pro-Israel camp" upon her return from the conference:
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
On March 9, 2011, Meretz USA President, Dr. Moises Salinas-Fleitman, and Executive Director Ron Skolnik issued the following statement on behalf of the organization.
Meretz USA for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace was disturbed to learn that the Hillel Foundation for Jewish Student Life at Brandeis University has reportedly denied recognition to the Jewish Voice for Peace student group due to JVP’s support for a targeted boycott of settlement products. While Meretz USA disagrees with JVP on many issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the need to explicitly advocate for a two-state solution, we reject the idea that a boycott of the settlements in the Occupied Territories is the same as delegitimization of the State of Israel.
Meretz USA is a longstanding affiliate of the American Zionist Movement. We recently issued a statement, “Buy Israel – Don’t Buy Settlements”, which advocates for a targeted boycott of the settlements, and which can be read in full at our website. As Jews who care deeply about Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, we have an obligation to raise our voices and oppose policies that harm Israel and those under occupation, and that are counter to our democratic and Jewish values.
He's referred me to the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. This is part of what it says about the sixth paragraph of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), which is the legal basis for arguments that Israel's settlement policy is illegal:
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
In my recent post on the J Street Conference panel on Boycotts/Divestment/Sanctions, I focused mainly on Rebecca Vilkomerson, whose support for BDS in a moderately left/liberal Jewish space was greeted with civility even by most of those who disagreed with her; and on Kenneth Bob of Ameinu who, though certainly a staunch advocate for peace, made sweeping and unfair generalizations about the BDS movement.
A wish to conserve space led me to say very little about the other two participants, and I’ll address half of that deficiency now.
Bernard Avishai’s stance on BDS largely mirrors my own, in that he supports economic action specifically targeting the settlements, but not Israel. On the other hand, his
I offer here Avishai’s thinking on why he believes it is so important to resist all-out BDS against Israel, a point on which I agree with him. I include his full blog piece because it also reflects some of the condescension and hostility (which, to his credit, Avishai is trying very hard to tone down) that is present on both sides. Indeed, Avishai reacts to it and points it out himself as something he sees in “the other side.” I’m seeing it in both, and on both sides it needs to be done away with. As with so much else when dealing with this subject, we should all be taking every measure we can to keep things civilized and reasonable because we’ve seen for decades the result of letting emotions hold sway.“offense” (his word) at those advocating something different is precisely what, on both sides, leads to the anger and useless fighting that student Simone Zimmerman of UC Berkeley (also a panelist at J Street) found so distressing about bringing up the BDS issue.
And without further ado, here is Avishai’s piece:
Last week, at the J Street Conference, I appeared on a panel considering BDS. I made the case I had made last spring in The Nation, that lumping the three together–boycott, divestment, and sanctions–was rash. Moreover, targeting West Bank settlements is not the same as targeting Israel more generally.
For my part, I said, I support a boycott of Ariel’s college and of products made in West Bank settlements. When James Baker, back in 1991, told the Israeli government that every dollar spent on settlements would be deducted from US loan guarantees, I supported that. So I could be said to have supported certain sanctions, and would again. At the same time I strongly oppose boycotting Israeli universities or companies or divesting from global companies that do business in Israel, even if some of their products might be used by occupation forces.
In the wake of that appearance, a member of the Jewish Voice for Peace wrote me, asking for clarification. (I shall not identify the person only because I have not asked permission to use the email):
“You said you would boycott settlement products but not multi-national companies implicated in the occupation project. I have to say that I don’t understand this distinction on several levels. First, because settlement products are often produced by multinationals. Second, because it sounds like you want to protect global capital but are not concerned about local capital? In other words, if there is a small settlement business with 10 employees selling dates, for example, you think that can be boycotted, but a company like caterpillar, whose weaponized bulldozers destroy trees and homes, should not?”
This questioner deserved an answer. Here with some slight revisions, is what I replied:
THE WAY YOU frame things, it is as if I am being asked why a small perp should be punished but not a big one. Presumably, I’m going after some penny-ante mortgage officer in Dayton, but not the world-historical ripoff artists at Goldman Sachs.
I think this is a very narrow frame. The question that matters to me is, how do we end the occupation? How do I empower my allies and undermine my opponents?
Boycotting products from West Bank settlements is simple, direct, and clearly targeted. If a business started at a settlement loses its customers, the settlement itself may prove less viable; the settlers, in turn, will feel directly that a great many people wish to shun them and condemn their actions. (By the same token, I do not expect that many settlers are subscribers to Haaretz. In effect, they are boycotting a newspaper whose very existence they would want to discourage.)
Now, if you could find an international company that made only something only a settler (or other breaker of international law) could use, I would want to boycott that company. Again, the tactic would be simple, direct, and clearly targeted. I would be denying my opponent a source of supply.
The problem is that the international companies in question make all kinds of things that can be put to all kinds of uses. And, as a group, international companies also empower the most important allies I have. As I said at the conference, why should a Caterpillar bulldozer (another instance of which might be building a neighborhood in Ramallah) be targeted and not the software on the cell phone of the bulldozer’s driver? Why should United Technologies be targeted for its helicopters when its air-conditioners may be cooling a school in Afula–or Gaza? The choice is purely arbitrary.
You may say, well, we have to start somewhere. The boycott of Caterpillar is merely, or mainly, symbolic. But the implication of this answer is that you wish to begin a process–for now, mainly on campuses–in which international companies will be forced to understand that selling to Israel will carry a price; that starting up branch plant operations in Israel, or employing Israelis, will carry a price. The implicit premise here is that the occupation flows from the fact of Israel itself: that Israel is inherently a kind of occupation machine, beginning with 1948 and followed up in 1967. (In effect, you accept the view of the settlers and Hamas both, that the claim of Jews to Hebron is very much like claim to Tel Aviv, that both claims have the same moral status.)
This view of Israel, after all, where the symbolism leads. Campuses all over the United States, full of students who are eager to do the right thing, and who (as I remember from my own student days) don’t have much patience for a generational battle, or for learning much about the history of a distant country or about its complex social constituencies, will be demanding divestment from the endowment, etc., because it feels so good to take action. For their part, international companies, or many of them, will get the message; the logical end of what you began is the implosion of the Israeli private sector.
You may say, then, fine. If you make the people in the private sector hurt, this will lead to a political change that you want. Some extend this logic to boycotting Israeli universities, whose professors after all contribute in various ways the technologies that make the private sector work. You may even say that teachers of Israeli history, or critics of Israeli literature, are all somehow implicated in creating a context that enables occupation. Why not extend the boycott to Israeli academia, so goes the argument, in order to pressure the system even more?
I think this approach is morally unacceptable the way any form of collective punishment is. But it is also tactically shortsighted. Settlers and their ultra-allies have no problem with Israel turning into a poor, pure, defensive, little Jewish Pakistan. But if you cause Israel’s private sector to implode, or cause Israeli universities to be internationally isolated, you will be ruining the lives of the very people who are most likely to be advocating for liberal equality and cosmopolitan values in Israeli society.
Entrepreneurial businesses in Palestine mostly make better distinctions, by the way. Most favor boycotting settlement products, but buy products made by Israelis within the Green Line, or products made by international companies in Israel, even if some of these are also used by settlers.
I suppose what offends me most about your approach is that it confuses quelling a vague sense of anger and frustration with doing politics. Retaliation and strategy are not the same thing. You remind me, forgive me, of the Tea Party, which is so mad “at government” for putting taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street that it is prepared to hit back, in spite of all the necessary things government does, and irrespective of the question of how much worse things would be if the bailout had never happened.
Hitting back at international companies that do business in Israel (let’s be clear, there are no international businesses that do business “only with the occupation”) is this kind of confusion. It is a little like saying Israeli journalism is complicit in the occupation, or at least we have to get Israeli journalists to take a stand against the occupation; so let’s engineer the collapse of all Israeli newspapers, or any that ever carries a column advocating for settlements, even if this broad-brush approach will lead, first, to closing down the most vulnerable paper, namely Haaretz. That’ll show ‘em!
Indeed, international companies are not just profit-making machines any more than Israel is an occupation machine. Companies are also learning and teaching organizations. Motorola’s impact on Tel Aviv is more like MIT’s on Cambridge than the United Fruit Company’s on Guatemala. I lived in Israel in the early 1970s, before Israeli commercial life globalized. The country’s commercial life today is incomparably more liberal and cosmopolitan than it was then, although there is much stronger proto-fascist minority today than there was then. My fear is that the more we undermine liberal forces through things like divestment and boycott, the faster the ranks of liberal Israel will be depleted, and the more we are ceding the field to the cultists and fanatics. By the way, as I noted in my Nation article, many anti-apartheid activists in South Africa took this very position on divestment in the 1980s.
A final word. It is hard not to be moved by your obvious moral anguish regarding how things in Israel are evolving. But there is a way that seizing the moral high-ground can lead to condescension. It has become a convention in the JVP, and supporting bloggers, to dismiss people like myself as “liberal Zionists,” that is, people who are not prepared to take the next logical step and move from BDS to regretting that Israel ever happened. There is a kind of unearned superiority here that would be wrong, even if your historical imaginations were complete and your tactics were right.
Monday, March 07, 2011
Peace Now founder leading initiative for new social-democratic party by Ilan Lior: The initiative is led by Naftali Raz, a founder of Peace Now and a former party worker on behalf of Mapam, Meretz and Labor. Raz is considered close to Amram Mitzna and was a leading field organizers in Mitzna's campaigns for Labor chairman....
The demise of Israel's left may be the birth of a new political force by Avshalom Vilan: On the continuum between centrist Kadima and leftist Hadash, on the ruins of Meretz and Labor, a new political body must arise....
Thursday, March 03, 2011
First of all, Ameinu president Ken Bob was in no way "reactionary" in his anti-BDS stance (upon reflection, I suspect that Mitchell regrets using this term). Ken noted with irony that he was "comfortably on the right" (in relative terms) on this panel, as opposed to most venues where he's usually the furthest left. Yet his opposition to settlements and the occupation is beyond dispute. And Mitchell doesn't recognize the truth of Ken's statement that the "global BDS movement" uses BDS as a strategy to undermine Israel's existence.
Secondly, the individual he mentioned at the end was not "unruly." He waited patiently on line, while the chair person used her "prerogative" to have a woman jump ahead of him to pose a question, and then he had to assert himself to get his question answered.
He was pointing out the inconsistency in panelist Rebecca Vilkomerson's Jewish Voice for Peace organization following the lead of Palestinian "civil society" groups for BDS against Israel but then not explicitly endorsing the Palestinian Authority's call for a two-state solution. Vilkomerson responded by saying that the JVP is a "rights-based movement" and therefore doesn't take a position on what the ultimate solution to the conflict should be, beyond the fact that it's for Israelis and Palestinians to decide.
Pete Seeger, the noted folksinger, announced his support for the BDS movement as reported on the internet and in the press. (BDS stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions with Israel as the target.)
My name is mentioned in the above-named article, and some readers may have been given the impression that I, too, support the BDS movement, despite the fact that even a cursory reading of the item makes it clear that I do not. Pete Seeger is a valued friend and colleague for whom I have great respect and admiration, notwithstanding the fact that I have disagreed with some of his positions over the years.
Let me make clear where I stand on the matter of boycott. Some months back I announced my support of Israeli artists’ refusal to perform in places beyond the Green Line. Like these artists, I believe the settlements to be a glaring obstacle to peace and any support of the settlers to be inimical to the interests of Israel.
At the time, some people chose to interpret my stand as support of the BDS movement. Nothing could be further from the truth. I am not, and never have been, in favor of boycotting Israel. (The settlements are not Israel, are not even in Israel.)
I am a life-long Zionist, an ardent supporter of Israel, its defender when I deem Israel to be right and its critic when I deem it to be wrong. While I do have legitimate objections to Israel’s role as an occupier of territories beyond its borders, I cannot for the life of me imagine that a broad boycott of all Israel and Israelis can possibly further the interests of peace.
This piece originally appeared at The Third Way
I asked myself, should I blog first about the J Street conference as a whole, or about the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) panel in particular, since I plan to write both.
I decided to start with the BDS panel, because it really was a remarkable event. J Street got an enormous amount of flak for agreeing to host a discussion about BDS in a liberal Jewish venue. Many on the right used it to “prove” that J Street was really anti-Israel, though that argument seemed to have convinced no one outside of their own amen chorus.
While the panel of four featured only one explicitly pro-BDS person, another opposed the global BDS movement but supported certain kinds of economic action against the occupation and a third expressed sympathy to some of the motivations behind BDS, objecting more to the atmosphere the debate creates and the bellicosity of some of its proponents.
Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace acquitted herself very well in being the lone voice supporting BDS on the panel. It was a tough task, but, having known Rebecca for many years, I had no doubt that she was up to it, and she didn’t disappoint.
Still, her task was not as hard as it might have been, and perhaps as it might have seemed to her and to her organization coming in. Nothing, of course, was settled in that room, and I imagine few people left with a different opinion than they came in with, albeit perhaps with a lot more to think about with regard to BDS.
But the panel was still a triumph simply because it was at a major national Jewish pro-Israel event and the conversation was civilized, respectful, and for the most part very informative. People listened. Sure, there were occasional murmurs, but everyone was allowed to speak, and the questions that were asked by both sides were genuine and respectful. That in itself is a triumph on this subject.
The panel, in fact was almost completed without disruption. In literally the last minute of the the talk, one unruly audience member began to shout at Vilkomerson (not, in fact, about BDS, but about JVP’s agnosticism on a one- or two-state solution). But that one scar on the perfection of the audience’s behavior, despite strong feelings only highlighted the success of the conversation in that room.
Ken Bob of Ameinu was by far the most reactionary of the group, opening his comments with a blanket statement that the global BDS movement’s goal is “one state between Mediterranean and Jordan.” He’s wrong about that, though he is accurately reflecting a widespread perception of the global BDS movement. The other two speakers, author and economist Bernard Avishai and student leader Simone Zimmerman gave considerably more nuanced presentations.
Bob’s comments, though, were very important, because his view was the most representative of genuine peace advocates (which Ken most certainly is) who are hostile to the BDS movement.
At this stage, I should probably reiterate that I don’t support the global BDS movement, though I also oppose its demonization, and do support economic action aimed at ending the occupation. This was probably the biggest reason that I left my friends at JVP three years ago, despite the very good work they do. You can see my reasons at the above link.
But I also know that there is good reason to support strong economic action against the occupation, especially here in the United States, where our ostensibly superpower government has been completely impotent in stopping settlement expansion and numerous Israeli crimes against Palestinians.
The strong reactions to BDS make sense, but should be examined critically. They make sense because BDS does cast Israel in a harsh light, and is based, certainly for many if not most BDS activists, on the comparison with South Africa. That is going to upset a lot of people.
And this was somewhat evident when Bob made the point that BDS puts the focus on targeting Israel rather than on ending the occupation. The point is a little odd, but it also betrays a certain framework that should be examined critically as well.
The occupation is about to complete its 44th year. Even if one grants (and I do not) that Israel fought a defensive war in 1967 and ended up with the land without intent, it cannot be argued that Israel has, in those 44 years, made a serious effort to end that occupation. The massive expansion of settlements in occupied territory, which are now home to around 500,000 settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, puts the lie to any claim of Israeli determination to end the occupation. It’s even more striking when you consider that this represents a more than an 80% population increase since 1993, the year the Oslo Accords were culminated.
That circumstance, the frustration at Israel’s refusal to slow down its settlement enterprise, the decline of Palestinian standards of living since the inception of the Oslo era (largely due to the evaporation of job opportunities for Palestinians in Israel and the massive proliferation of checkpoints which disrupt routine life and commerce for Palestinians), the disparity of power between Israeli and the Palestinians and the dishonest role the United States has played in the peace process created the impetus for the BDS movement.
Increased awareness of the human rights violations inherent in the occupation, the tightening of the occupation with the separation barrier and the tiny scope of relief Israel has given West Bankers in the wake of universally praised efforts by the PA to crack down on Hamas and enforce security for Israelis gave the movement added momentum. And the Israeli siege on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead and the flotilla incident last year made BDS expand like a balloon hooked up to a compressed air tank.
These worsening conditions are happening in years where Israelis are more secure than they’ve ever been. Can we really expect that Israel won’t be attacked under such circumstances? It is Israel’s own policies that are feeding this movement, and it will continue to grow until Israel stops feeding it. For those of us who do not wish to see Israel so targeted, it’s crucial that we lay the blame where it belongs: at the door of Israeli policy.
To be sure, many in the global BDS movement could rightly be called “anti-Israel.” But many others are simply responding to some serious escalations in human rights issues, particularly in Gaza, and the lack of hope for substantive change in the West Bank. Demonizing those activists instead of recognizing that Israel’s own actions are causing this is only going to make matters worse. We can deal with these issues more directly, as the J Street panel proved. And so we should.
Wednesday, March 02, 2011
Most of the J Street audience was disappointed by Dennis Ross (although not surprised), as they desire a more assertive White House role in brokering a peace agreement--as do I. The predominant sense of the conference is that it's urgent to effectively pressure the parties toward an agreement on establishing two states because the status quo is unsustainable. Ross even said this about the status quo, but he gave us no hint of anything happening to back up this statement. Still, Tom's thoughts are at least a good jumping off point for looking at the conference:
... Having attended an AIPAC conference in 1995 during the Oslo conference and the J Street conference in 2009, what struck me about the former was that it was mostly intended to fire up the troops and allow politicians to compete in kissing up to the Israeli lobby. J Street instead of just conducting workshops on messaging and the upcoming election cycle in the U.S., attempted to educate its supporters about the conflict by inviting members of the Palestinian government and the Israeli Knesset to the conference to serve on panels.