Is­raeli am­bas­sador snubs dovish lobby

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BYNATHANGUTTMAN WASH­ING­TON

THE CLOSER the dovish Is­rael lobby J Street gets to its first na­tional con­fer­ence, the louder the con­tro­versy sur­round­ing its ac­tiv­ity grows.

J Street, com­mit­ted to be­ing “proIs­rael and pro-peace”, has been un­der fire since it took its first steps 18 months ago. But as it reaches a ma­jor mile­stone — a grand con­fer­ence sched­uled for next week and fash­ioned af­ter the sim­i­lar an­nual event held by the more es­tab­lished, main­stream Is­rael lobby, Aipac — crit­i­cism is mount­ing from all fronts: the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment, hawk­ish Jewish ac­tivists, and mem­bers of Congress.

The hur­dle fac­ing J Street is to prove to the Jewish com­mu­nity that its views, call­ing for strong US push for a two-state so­lu­tion and an end to Is­raeli set­tle­ment ac­tiv­ity, are not that far from the main­stream of the Jewish com­mu­nity and do not con­tra­dict Is­raeli in­ter­ests.

But two weeks be­fore its con­fer­ence, J Street was slapped with a harsh state­ment from the Is­raeli em­bassy in Wash­ing­ton, claim­ing that the em­bassy has “con­cern over cer­tain poli­cies that could im­pair Is­rael’s in­ter­ests”.

To make the point even clearer, the Is­raeli am­bas­sador to Wash­ing­ton, Michael Oren, re­fused to meet with mem­bers of the group and, af­ter re­fus­ing to re­ply to an open in­vi­ta­tion to speak at the con­fer­ence, fi­nally de­clined it this week.

In an open let­ter to the am­bas­sador be­fore he replied, Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, said the fo­rum should be used for mu­tu­ally con­vinc­ing each other and to “ar­gue over how best to en­sure the health, safety and vi­brancy of the Jewish peo­ple and of Is­rael for gen­er­a­tions to come”.

Aipac has re­mained si­lent on its ri­val from the left. But smaller Jewish groups known for their hawk­ish views have at­tacked J Street in re­cent weeks, ar­gu­ing that it is not a true sup­porter of Is­rael.

One of them, Stand With Us, said in a state­ment: “We are most con­cerned be­cause J Street fre­quently en­dorses anti-Is­rael, anti-Jewish nar­ra­tives.”

Hadar Suskind, di­rec­tor of pol­icy at J Street, said that those ac­cus­ing it of be­ing anti-Is­rael are wrong and some are “in­ten­tion­ally spread­ing false­hood” by mis­rep­re­sent­ing the group’s views.

J Street ex­pects more than 1,000 ac­tivists to at­tend its con­fer­ence, which will be­gin on Oc­to­ber 25. The ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced it would send one of its most se­nior of­fi­cials, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser James Jones, but sev­eral key law­mak­ers pulled their names from the con­fer­ence’s spon­sor­ing com­mit­tee at last minute.

Among t hem were New York se­na­tors Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gil­li­brand.

Both said they were un­aware of be­ing on the list of spon­sors in the first place.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of J Street, the “pro-Is­rael and pro-peace” Is­rael lobby set up 18 months ago

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