Several American Jewish organizations are joining with Christian and Muslim religious and political action groups to call for the peaceful resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. They launched a nationwide ad campaign as President Barack Obama was hosting the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early July.
As President Obama was meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu at the White House, a new coalition, called the Community of Yes, was launching a nationwide ad campaign, supporting bold US leadership to achieve a two-state solution.
The "Community of Yes," is unprecedented. It's led by J Street. The group calls itself the pro-Israel, pro-peace lobby and favors the two-state solution, a Palestinian state living alongside Israel. The coalition includes three more Jewish organizations, as well as two Muslim American groups, Churches for Middle East Peace and the Foundation for Middle East Peace.
But tensions between Israel and the Palestinians are mounting after Israel demolished three Palestinian homes in an area of Jerusalem it seized in the 1967 war. The peace process has been stalled, with the US mediating so called proximity talks. The Palestinian Authority is insisting on a total freeze of Jewish settlement in the West Bank before entering direct talks.
Hadar Susskind, a vice president of J Street, explains the coalition's goals:
"To be a counter in a lot of ways to the broad array of voices you will hear out there sometimes in Congress, sometimes on the airwaves and in the Jewish community, the folks who spend a lot of time talking about why we can't do this, why we can't get to peace, or that Israel doesn't have a partner," said Hadar Susskind. "What we want to show is what we know is out there; a tremendous amount of support for U.S. leadership to end this conflict."
Susskind says opinion polls indicate more than 80 percent of Jewish Americans support an active role by the US to bring about the two state solution.
To build even more support, JStreet has been holding events at synagogues. The other groups in the community will be going to their constituents.
"There is going to be a whole series of tools and ways for people to join the Community of Yes, to be a part of this broad effort to say yes to the American leadership, yes to President Obama engaging and trying to finally bring an end to this conflict," said Susskind.
New to the mix are two large Islamic American organizations, including the Muslim Public Affairs Council or MPAC.
Haris Tarrain directs MPAC's Washington office:
"We have come together to say it is time for those who are willing to say yes to peace and now, to accentuate our voices and to come together," said Haris Tarrain. "We think we can mobilize Americans of all backgrounds and Muslim Americans will be one component of that."
Tarrain says although the Muslim American community is diverse, the Palestinian issue is dear to most.
While the Community of Yes says the U.S. is urgently needed to help end the conflict, some pro-Israel groups argue against moving quickly.
Robert Satloff is Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, which takes mostly pro-Israel positions:
"Most Americans have an understanding that Israelis are on the frontlines," said Robert Satloff. "Our job, the appropriate job for the U.S. government is to reduce the risks for the peacemakers so they can take that last leap to make the peace."
Organizations in the Community of Yes are prodding Congress and the Obama administration to help end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through sustained engagement, which President Obama promised in his Cairo address one year ago.