Gaza, Iranian Rockets and J Street

Even the most apolitical tourist in Israel cannot escape noticing the contrast between an openly displayed show of opulence in a world economic crisis -- overcrowded hotels, a healthy currency, expanding exports thanks to the inventiveness of the pioneers of the new technologies -- and an inner bitterness and doubt about the possibility of peace.

A hostile media campaign against Israel in Europe, a wavering of friends and neutrals in the battle against terror and a Palestinian neighbor, though split, politically united in refusal to start serious peace talks -- all this clouds the atmosphere and faith in a peaceful solution.

The Goldstone report on Gaza is almost uniformly condemned. The very fact that European voices failed to make it clear that Hamas is condemned as well as Israel, embitters Israelis. The fact that a country loudest in its condemnations is Saudi Arabia where only recently a female journalist was sentenced to sixty lashes and her male guest in a talk show to five years in prison and a thousand lashes.

A statement by Colonel Kemp, senior British officer and commander in various scenes of fighting in the Middle East, that he thought the moral and ethical behavior of the Israeli fighting forces were the best in the world, was only sparingly reported.

There is a suspicion in Israel that President Obama's foreign policy, far from reassuring the Muslim world, is regarded by most regimes in the area as a smokescreen hiding a policy of withdrawal from the region. Hence it is felt that this is the moment for more and more concessions to be wrung from the United States without the need to reciprocate. That is why more of the players in the region look for cover elsewhere; thus Turkey is in the process of changing its pro-Western policy -- more drastically than is generally assumed.

An Israeli Cabinet minister told me that Iran's rockets can now reach as far as Vienna and in a year's time would be able to reach Great Britain. The Iranian war machine works on all cylinders to be able to reach the Atlantic coast and New York within three years. Simultaneously Iran's vassal, Hezbollah, prepares to use its arsenal of 33,000 rockets to open a second front on Israel.

Finally, a development which at first sight seems fairly harmless depresses politically astute Israelis: the establishment of a second group of American Jews claiming to further U.S./Israel relations and the cause of peace. Its aim is to rival AIPAC, the well-known American Israeli Public Affairs Committee. This new group, known as J Street, contains many names who have for a long time been extremely critical of the Jewish State and in some cases even queried its very legitimacy. They have, however, quite a few eloquent and well-known supporters in American Jewry who accuse AIPAC of pursuing an aggressive pro-Israel policy and act as a potent pressure group in Washington. The Israeli government refused to send its ambassador in Washington to the founding conference of J Street, whereas the leader of the Opposition, Tzipi Livni, decided to send two leading members of her party to find out if J Street could be tamed.

One of the main money sources of J Street is held to be the financial mogul George Soros, who has never made a secret of his criticism of Israeli policy. Such a 'counter lobby' would very probably be used by anti-Israel elements in Congress, the State Department, even the White House, to neutralize the influence of AIPAC. Such a serious schism in its own camp must be considered as yet another front in Israel's existential battle for survival.