Although different in style and subject, these two books reach a similar conclusion: only a two-state solution can secure an Israel that is both Jewish and democratic. Ben-Ami begins with the story of his family’s roots in militant, expansionist Zionism. But as a young man, his own concern for Israel was overshadowed by his active involvement in U.S. domestic politics. Only later, while living in Israel and coming into contact with Palestinians, did he have an epiphany: Israel needed a policy of actively seeking peace with the Palestinians, and Americans needed to be not just reflexively pro-Israel but pro-peace as well. To achieve this goal, Ben-Ami founded the lobbying organization J Street in 2008. His account of the group’s efforts to date is enriched by his knowledge of how lobbies fit into the U.S. political system.
Gorenberg focuses more squarely on Israel itself, weighing the different ways the Israeli state and Israeli society deal with Palestinians, those who are citizens of Israel as well as those who live under Israeli occupation. In both cases, Gorenberg finds that Israel fails to live up to liberal democratic principles. Although criticizing Israel can be politically risky -- more so in the United States than in Israel, ironically -- these two books propose a “tough love” U.S. approach to helping Israel fulfill the Zionist dream of a democratic and liberal Jewish state living in peace with its neighbors. If not now, when?