Jeremy Ben-Ami
Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s founder and director. Photo by Alon Ron
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The progressive, American. pro-Israel lobbying group J Street has come out against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as the Jewish state - at least during the current round of negotations.

In a letter to supporters last Friday, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami wrote that the issue should not be allowed to derail the negotiations at the current time.

"These issues are appropriately settled as part of a final peace agreement – and not now as part of a framework for continued negotiation," Ben-Ami wrote.

He noted that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had "also cautioned Israelis against turning the 'Jewish state issue' into 'the critical decider of their attitude towards the possibility of a state and peace.'"

The "core issues of identity, recognition, rights and redress" will have to be addressed in a final, comprehensive agreement to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ben-Ami said.

"Resolving the conflict requires mutual recognition by Israel and a new state of Palestine of each other as the national homeland of their respective people," Ben-Ami wrote. "In a final agreement, both states should agree to treat all their citizens equally without regard for religion, race or background and reach an agreed-upon resolution of all outstanding claims."

Saying that mutual recognition can be part of a package deal once the parties have settled the issues of borders, security, Jerusalem and refugees, Ben-Ami averred: "It is simply unrealistic and unreasonable to expect any Palestinian leader to consent to what has become for all intents and purposes an Israeli ultimatum right now".

Derailing the talks over the issue may win Netanyahu some propaganda points, Ben-Ami concluded, but "he would be throwing away for the Jewish people our best chance to end the conflict in years. With goodwill and creativity, the parties can surely surmount this obstacle and move on."