WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Israeli ambassador to Washington says his dispute with J Street is close to resolution and that the group was "much more in the mainstream."
Michael Oren stirred controversy last summer when he refused to attend the inaugural conference of the dovish pro-Israel lobby, and again late last year when he told a group of rabbis that J Street’s policies endangered Israel.
In an interview this week with the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, Oren said "the J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving. The major concern with J Street was their position on security issues, not the peace process."
Oren cited J Street’s support in December for the Iran sanctions bill advanced by U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, and its call on the United Nations not to be one-sided in its handling of the Goldstone commission’s allegations of Israeli war crimes.
"J Street has now come and supported Congressman [Howard] Berman’s Iran sanction bill; it has condemned the Goldstone report; it has denounced the British court’s decision to try Tzipi Livni for war crimes, which puts J Street much more into the mainstream," he said.
J Street officials have consistently said that they never opposed the Berman bill outright. But while most other Jewish organizations were pressing for its immediate passage, J Street argued that action on the bill should be delayed — saying premature passage would potentially undercut the Obama administration’ diplomatic efforts Then in December, amid growing administration and congressional frustration with the failure of the Iranian regime to respond to U.S. outreach, J Street joined other organizations in backing the bill’s immediate passage.
On Goldstone, J Street has not directly attacked the report. Instead it has called on the United Nations to avoid one-sidedness in how it handles the report, as well as on Israel to independently investigate its conduct in last winter’s Gaza war. J Street has called for an end to personal attacks on Richard Goldstone, who led the commission.
J Street, which critcized Israel’s invasion of Gaza almost immediately after it was launched, advocates U.S. pressure on Israel and the Palestinian Authority to help achieve a two-state deal.
Even as the organization has portrayed itself as the target of efforts to stifle debate about U.S. and Israeli policy, J Street has ruffled feathers with its claims that established Jewish organizations are not sufficiently dedicated to achieving a peace deal.