It has become clear that, at least some of the time, the United States needs to be able to credibly threaten to deploy "sticks", not just "carrots", in order to demonstrate the unacceptable of certain Israeli governmental conduct and to induce changes in Israeli behavior; just as we have both "sticks" and "carrots" to respond to behavior of Palestinian parties or any other government. That said, we understand and are sympathetic to your concerns that some potential "sticks" may be unacceptable, a bridge too far, outright dangerous, or fostering of antisemitism here or abroad. The last thing we want to do is use those sticks. It would be helpful, then, if you could tell us what sorts of sticks are permissible and "in bounds", so that we build our policy around them and not ones that will provoke an unnecessary crisis.
This, in many ways, is a variant of the question I asked of some Jewish Mid-East policy experts during a break in Yom Kippur services a few years back: if we're saying "no BDS', what might we say "yes" to? It's fine to say a particular "stick" is off-limits, but only if one can credibly say "but this other stick that would be okay."
If, by contrast, the groups refuse to answer -- if they say "sorry, but there are no sticks we could ever approve of" -- the main consequence will probably be that the progressives will simply stop consulting with the pro-Israel Jewish groups on the subject of sticks. Why bother, if you've already decided a stick is necessary but you know that nothing will come out of the conversation other than "not that, and not that, and not that either"?
Hence, if they want to stay relevant to the conversation, the difficult, uncomfortable, but necessary task for pro-Israel Jewish groups is going to be deciding what sticks are okay -- and (this is crucial) credibly commit to defending them as okay. The old model of carrots or bust won't work, the old reliance on (in Jeremy Ben-Ami's words) offering nothing more than "thoughts and prayers" isn't going to cut it. These groups are going to have a very tough internal conversation, the conclusion of which has to be telling Democratic politicians "if you support X 'stick' as a response to bad Israeli behavior, we think and we will publicly affirm that it will be in-bounds." And then (perhaps this will be even tougher) sticking -- no pun intended -- to that commitment even in the face of the predictable caterwauling and fulminations that will unfold at the very idea of using a stick.
What sticks should be given this, if not endorsement, then at least kashering stamp? I can't answer that -- it's something the relevant Jewish pro-Israel organizations will have to decide for themselves -- but I can think of some candidates. I think conditioning foreign aid or limiting certain weapons sales is an obvious one. Certain forms of sanctions on settlement activities, in particular (especially American charities which fund such activities), might be another. No doubt there are other options. Persons with more clout and influence than I can figure it out. And the thing is, once one identifies some of these sticks and can be explicit in saying that "no, we're not saying no to everything -- in fact, we should rally behind these specific sticks in conjunction with these specific carrots", I think the groups will find significant receptivity among progressive politicians if they then say "but this particular stick" (say, an academic boycott of Israel as an obvious one) "is still an absolute no-go."
Again, this will be very hard. It is not the conversation most American Jewish pro-Israel groups want to have. They'd rather not think of pressuring Israel at all, or at the absolute most they will look for circuitous carrots that side-step Bibi and Likud to invest in more favorable peacemaking organizations. Those projects are well and good, and they deserve continued support. But they're not going to be sufficient anymore. We're going to need to start picking some sticks.