It makes me feel hopeful when I hear Israeli experts and I find myself nodding in agreement with virtually everything they say. Such was the case last evening (Thursday) at a Los Angeles J Street event featuring Admiral Ami Ayalon, former Commander of Israel’s Navy and head of Shin Bet, Israel’s General Security Service, along with J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami about whom I have written before (see my Book Recommendations).
In 2003 Ami Ayalon joined with Palestinian Professor Sari Nusseibeh to develop a set of principles for a permanent agreement between Israel and the Palestinians – see http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/1273B3972DA8E47185256DD00055A0CF. Eventually, 450,000 Israelis and Palestinians signed on signaling a consensus on what is likely to be the contours of an eventual two-states for two-peoples end-of-conflict solution.
Last evening, Admiral Ayalon repeated the general principles and noted the following:
 We have gone backwards over the last three years. Pragmatic leaders in Arab countries cannot deliver what they could have delivered three years ago. There is a new Middle East, more unstable with different divisions of power. Leaders are weaker and the Arab street is stronger. Egypt has disappeared as the potential guarantor of an agreement. Turkey is no longer the ally to Israel it once was;
 It is time to recognize that the settlers have made it possible for Israel to be accepted de facto and de jure within the Arab world; but, it is now time to bring the settlers who live outside the main block of Jewish settlements and east of the security fence home with full compensation and deep expressions of gratitude by the Jewish people and the state of Israel for their sacrifice. These people, despite many of their extremism, are NOT our enemy. They are our people. It is time for Israel’s government to say that Israel should not build in those areas east of the fence, but within the areas that will be within Israel after an agreement (per the statement of principles), Israel has every right to continue to build and expand, and should say so;
 Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians will not work at this time and we should not be pushing this as an end goal nor as the determiner of whether there is progress or not towards an agreement. Rather, both sides need to come to a consensus through others around the stipulations noted in the set of principles (above);
 The President of the United States is the ONLY world leader who will be capable of bringing the Israelis and Palestinians to the consensus position. The Quartet and the UN are not so capable. If the President succeeds, all others will follow and there will be an international consensus. The Israelis know it and the Palestinians know it.
 Admiral Ayalon told us that J Street has enabled him and people like him to have a voice in America because his ideas, though representing the consensus, are not welcome by and large in the organized American Jewish community despite the vast majority of American Jews (according to all non-partisan surveys) agreeing with those ideas.
Barbara and I left this meeting feeling at once hopeful and infuriated that the common consensus shared by all except the extremists has given way to the extremist minority. When will that stop? This week’s Parashat Noach reminds us of the catastrophe that can occur when avarice, fear and hatred win the day. However, we cannot forget that the dove and the rainbow are the hope of the Jewish people and humanity as a whole.