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Jordanian leader lauds J Street in video address

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jordan’s King Abdullah touted the Saudi peace initiative in a video address to the J Street conference.

In his brief pre-recorded message played Tuesday evening during the gala dinner of the dovish lobby’s inaugural conference, the king congratulated J Street and touted the 2002 Saudi plan as offering a path for Israelis and Arabs to pursue peace.

"We must find a new way forward," Abdullah said. "I welcome efforts like yours."

J Street announced that about three dozen members of the U.S. Congress were in attendance at the event, including House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Retired Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) also spoke at the event.

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), considered a pro-Israel stalwart, spoke at a VIP reception before the dinner in an event that was not open to the media.

More than a dozen lawmakers pulled out from the dinner’s "host committee" in the two weeks before the conference under pressure from critics who depicted J Street as outside the Jewish and pro-Israel mainstream, pointing to the group’s associations with individuals affiliated with Arab groups, as well as its equivocation on supporting the Israeli position in last winter’s Gaza war and on Iran sanctions.

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