I’ve meant to write about the not-very-pro-peace, pro-Israel J Street confab that has been going on in D.C., but even the most trivial campaign news or remote foreign policy issue seems to have more significance than a couple of thousand lefty stragglers trying to pass themselves off as friends of the Jewish state, a phrase they’d likely never use. That said, J Street remains a curiosity, and evidence of just how little market there is for Israel-bashing in the U.S.
Ruthie Blum of Israel Hayom nicely sums up the proceedings: “Not only did a mere 2,500 activists attend the conference, as compared with more than 13,000 at AIPAC’s gathering three weeks ago at the same venue. But its raison d’etre had long ago wilted. Grad missiles from Gaza, Fatah reconciliation with Hamas, and Iranian nukes tend to put a damper on concepts like ‘peace process.’ Still, [executive director Jeremy] Ben-Ami and his flock were not deterred from insisting that Congress not focus too much attention on Tehran, when there are Israeli settlements obstructing a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” You get the idea.
This mind-set doesn’t reflect any significant segment of the American electorate or even the views of the Obama administration (which has disappointed J Street by vetoing a U.N. resolution condemning the settlements and refusing to impose a peace plan on Israel). It is even less reflective of Israeli public opinion; the left’s “peace” agenda was demolished by the historical factors Blum cites.
The absence of a congressional host committee or any high-ranking administration speaker tells you what you need to know about the group’s effectiveness and influence in the U.S.
J Street is even further estranged from Israeli public opinion. The group could not rope in any influential Israeli politician, so it was reduced to featuring the indicted former prime minister, Ehud Olmert, who probably didn’t live up to expectations when he reminded the audience of how the Palestinians turned down his generous peace offer. ( Narrative fail! It’s not all about settlements.)
Adam Kredo quotes former deputy national security adviser Elliott Abrams: “J Street’s real problem is that Israel is thriving under [conservative] Likud leadership and it drives them crazy. The fact is that Israelis reject the J Street approach. That Netanyahu seems almost certain to win another term as prime minister leads them to question where Israel is heading instead of wondering why their own views are so out of step with Israeli reality.” Ironically, the group that wails about loss of Israeli democracy insists that it, not the democratically elected government in Israel and the overwhelming weight of public opinion, is the legitimate expression of modern Zionism.
But something useful did come of this. We got another reminder of how fraudulent are the faux “human rights” groups that provide cover for de-legitimizers of the Jewish state. The New Israel Fund, for example, ran a panel at the conference on “Jewish extremism.” Considering its Wikileaks public relations disaster (“A senior New Israel Fund officer [NIF] told a U.S. official in 2010 that the disappearance of the Jewish state would not be a tragedy, according to a document that was leaked by Wikileaks.”) and NIF’s activities in support of boycotts and de-legitimization campaigns, this all would be comical if it were not so grotesque.
But best of all, Barukh Binah, the deputy chief of mission at Israel’s Washington embassy told off J Street attendees. (“He is the first Israeli diplomat to attend a conference of the liberal pro-Israel group since its establishment in 2008. A good deal of Binah’s speech, however, was reproachful, and earned silence. “We need you to stand with us,” he said. “It is as simple as that and someone ought to say it. Internal activism is a central part of democratic society, but pressures on the elected government of Israel can present us with a problem, davka [especially] when we need you the most.”) But, in fact, Israel doesn’t need J Street. The latter is as irrelevant as it is tiny.
A final note: I wonder if President Obama’s post-election “flexibility” would include resumed chumminess with J Street and adoption of elements of its agenda. Ya think?