WASHINGTON (JTA) — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein accepted the endorsement of J Street’s political action committee.
Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is seen as a mainstream pro-Israel politician, joins Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) as Senate candidates who have received JStreetPAC’s endorsement for the 2012 election cycle.
"Senator Feinstein joins a long and growing list of American politicians who recognize that there is significant political support to be found from Americans who support Israel and deeply believe that American and Israeli interests would be better served through active American diplomacy to achieve two states," J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. "This is a sea change in American politics when it comes to Israel and the Middle East."
Feinstein, who is Jewish, has consistently backed assistance for Israel, but in some areas she has departed from pro-Israel orthodoxy. She sponsored legislation in 2006 that would ban the sale of cluster bombs to countries that would use them in highly populated areas, which likely would have included Israel.
The legislation was defeated after a strong lobbying effort by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. In 2010, Feinstein drafted a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in which she emphasized that "for too long," Israel’s "expansion of settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem undermined confidence."
J Street has tried to recover from a blitz in 2009 and 2010 by right-wing groups targeting politicians who associated with the group; a number of Jewish Democrats now distance themselves from the group.
Endorsing Feinstein, a mainstream Jewish Democrat whose influence as the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee has helped shore up support for a tough posture on Iran, recovers some of that ground. However, J Street also endorsed Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who also had a solid pro-Israel record, in his failed 2010 reelection bid.
In the U.S. House of Representatives, five Jewish Democrats have accepted J Street’s endorsement: Reps. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Susan Davis (D-Calif.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Overall, in addition to the four Senate candidates, J Street is endorsing 47 House incumbents and eight House challengers.