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J Street pushing peace process letter, Iran envoy bill

WASHINGTON (JTA) — J Street is backing a congressional letter urging President Obama to actively pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace and a bill that would direct him to appoint a special Iran envoy.

The two initiatives will be on the agenda of some J Street activists attending this week’s conference when they visit Capitol Hill on Tuesday for meetings with lawmakers. Of 2,500 people attending the conference, 700 plan on lobbying, and they will have meetings in the offices of 225 lawmakers, out of 535.

The letter circulating among members of the U.S. House of Representatives says that Israel "cannot afford the absence of diminution of U.S. leadership in the urgent quest for peace." It implicitly attacks Republicans who have accused Obama of having involved himself too deeply in the process, which they claim undermines the U.S.-Israel alliance.

"Some on the national political stage have argued that the United States should not play a lead role in the peace process, even denying the existence of the Palestinian people," the letter says, a reference to comments by Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich that stirred controversy. "Far from undermining Israel’s enemies, such rhetoric empowers them, and threatens Israel’s long-term security and survival."

Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) initiated the letter.

Also on the J Street legislative agenda is a bill initiated last week by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would direct the president to appoint a special envoy "for the purpose of ensuring that the United States pursues all diplomatic avenues to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, to avoid a war with Iran, and for other purposes."

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