Obama Administration to J Street: Peace Is 'Long-term Interest' of Israel, Palestinians and World

In remarks echoing AIPAC speeches, Obama's advisers say administration is committed to a 'just and lasting peace;' former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer calls on Israel to freeze settlement construction.

U.S. President Barack Obama's senior adviser Valerie Jarrett spoke to the J Street conference participants on Monday about the administration's "commitment to a just and lasting peace". Like Obama several times before, she acknowledged on the second day of the conference that some people were frustrated with the state of the peace process. "We have a lot of work ahead, but peace is the long-term interest of Israeli and the Palestinian people, region, US, world," she said.

Some remarks sounded exactly like those made at the AIPAC conference - Jarrett spoke about Obama's "ironclad" commitment to Israel's security, closer cooperation with Israel, joint exercises, and more. "I've known this president for 20 years - he means what he says and says what he means", she said.

J Street - Natasha Mozgovaya - March 26, 2012
Natasha Mozgovaya

Speaking about Iran, Jarret said that "the president is determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." Another U.S. administration official, Vice President Joe Biden's National Security advisor, stressed the importance of preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. However, Tony Blinken warned against "loose talk of war [that is] incredibly counterproductive it benefits Iran, because the price of oil goes up and the money goes from our pocket to Iran's pocket." He added that "our approach is different - we believe now it's time to talk softly. It's possible to be smart and tough. Israel and the U.S. both assess Iran doesn't have yet the nuclear weapon."

Former US ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer called for a freeze on Israeli settlement construction. "Freeze the settlements. Destroy the infrastructure of Palestinian terrorism and build the infrastructure of the state," he said. "These critical issues need to be debated. I wish you Godspeed, take the magic from this room to the outside world, win the argument for peace," he concluded.

J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami told Haaretz he hoped to hear from Obama Administration officials a more pro-active approach - more similar to the one voiced by the former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Kurtzer.

"They did a very good job in representing the administration's position, but we hoped for more - and we'll keep pushing them to do more," he said. "In our opinion, if this president wants to get serious about the peace process, he'll need to go there by himself and become engaged personally".

Reacting to claims that Jarrett's and Blinken's were quite AIPAC-style speeches, Ben-Ami laughed: "Well, imagine the outcry had the administration officials expressed different views here and at AIPAC conference".

Meanwhile, the Department of State announced that next week the Middle East Envoy David Hale will make yet another trip to Israel, the West Bank and Jordan.