‘Al­ter­na­tive’ US lobby pre­pares to launch

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BYNATHANGUTTMAN WASH­ING­TON

AF­TER AL­MOST a year in prepa­ra­tion, a new dovish Jewish group is ready to launch its op­er­a­tions hop­ing to re­flect the views of what its founders see as the silent ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can Jews.

The group, which will be named J Street — a Wash­ing­ton-in­sider joke re­lat­ing to the fact that the city’s al­pha­bet­i­cally-named street grid does not have a J street — is ex­pected to for­mally kick off its op­er­a­tions next week, af­ter al­ready start­ing to raise over a mil­lion dol­lars.

J Street will work as a PAC — a Po­lit­i­cal Ac­tion Com­mit­tee — rais­ing money from Jewish donors for po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates who sup­port the group’s goals: en­hanced US in­volve­ment in pro­mot­ing a two-state so­lu­tion, sup­port for peace talks be­tween Is­rael and Syria and back­ing a diplo­matic approach to the nu­clear cri­sis with Iran.

The at­tempts to cre­ate the new group un­der­went sig­nif­i­cant dif­fi­cul­ties since plans were re­vealed last year. The ini­tial plan to build a new pro-Is­rael lob­by­ing group which would serve as a coun­ter­weight to the pow­er­ful Amer­i­can Is­rael Pub­lic Af­fairs Com­mit­tee (Aipac) failed to gain trac­tion within the Jewish com­mu­nity. Talks about en­gag­ing Jewish bil­lion­aires such as Ge­orge Soros in the project also led to few re­sults.

Yet the fi­nal prod­uct, a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee cou­pled with a smaller lob­by­ing arm which will deal mainly with ed­u­ca­tion and me­dia, is still a ma­jor de­vel­op­ment for the Jewish com­mu­nity and has the po­ten­tial of chang­ing — over the long run — the pat­tern of po­lit­i­cal do­na­tions within the com­mu­nity.

The new group is con­duct­ing its op­er­a­tions un­der a veil of se­crecy un­til it is of­fi­cially launched. Mem­bers of the J Street project refuse to talk to the press and in­for­ma­tion about the planned ac­tiv­i­ties are kept away from the pub­lic. The group will be headed by Jeremy Ben Ami, a for­mer aide to pres­i­dent Bill Clin­ton who was in­volved in the at­tempts to cre­ate a dovish Jewish lobby from the be­gin­ning. While the staff work­ing for the group is small, it boasts an im­pres­sive list of mem­bers on its ad­vi­sory board. The list in­cludes ac­tivists from ex­ist­ing pro-peace Jewish groups and for­mer ne­go­tia­tors and diplo­mats. One of the prom­i­nent fig­ures is Bri­tish-born Daniel Levy, who served as an ad­viser to Is­raeli gov­ern­ments on peace talks be­fore be­com­ing ac­tive in the Wash­ing­ton dovish-pro­gres­sive scene.

Aipac, seen as the ma­jor ri­val to the new group, did not com­ment on the up­com­ing launch of J Street. Aipac sup­port­ers, how­ever, said there were no con­cerns over the new group, since it will not op­er­ate on a scale even re­motely close to that of Aipac’s op­er­a­tion.

PHOTO: AP

Hil­lary Clin­ton ad­dresses Aipac: the top Is­rael lobby faces com­pe­ti­tion

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