Tina Tchen to J Street: Have our back (and we have yours)


Tina Tchen is the White House official who deals with the "public liaisons" of national groups in DC (her motto might be: The Noodge Stops Here).

She addressed a joint session Sunday of the Arab American Institute and J Street, and asked for their help in making President Obama’s case for Middle East peace, working the grassroots in the Jewish and Arab American communities.

More subtly, it was clear that her appearance signaled that the White House has J Street’s back as it launches its first national conference and fends off a battery of charges that it is unrepresentative.

Her first words, after the effusive intros by AAI’s Jim Zogby and J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami: "You are quite representative of what we want to accomplish."

Even more telling was her response to the first question from the audience: With everyone else on board, the questioner said, what was George Mitchell, Obama’s envoyto the region, doing to make sure Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would "do the right thing." (Not everyone would agree that Netanyahu is less on board than the Palestinian Authority, which refuses to return to talks unless Israel totally freezes settlement building.)

Tchen’s reply was essentially a "no comment" — but not before a lengthy, full-throated laugh.

Anyway, here’s the brief we posted:

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The White House’s top outreach official urged Jewish and Arab leaders to change their communities’ "hearts and minds" about President Obama’s peace push.

Tina Tchen, who directs the Office of Public Engagement, addressed a joint session convened Sunday by the Arab American Institute and J Street, the dovish pro-Israel lobby.

"We need to build support" for Obama’s efforts to restart Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Tchen said. "There are hearts and minds in the United States that need to be changed."

The Arab American Institute and J Street are running conferences this week in Washington.

And here are photos (courtesy of AAI) of Tchen, and from left to right, Ben Ami, Zogby, and Hadar Susskind of J Street.

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