WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Israeli ambassador to the United States blasted J Street, saying the organization was "fooling around with the lives of 7 million people."
Michael Oren, responding to a question during an appearance Monday before the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism’s biennial convention, described the left-wing pro-Israel group as "a unique problem in that it not only opposes one policy of one Israeli government, it opposes all policies of all Israeli governments. It’s significantly out of the mainstream," The Forward reported.
"This is not a matter of settlements here [or] there," said Oren. "We understand that there are differences of opinion. But when it comes to the survival of the Jewish state, there should be no differences of opinion. You are fooling around with the lives of 7 million people. This is no joke."
Among the policies Oren pointed to as problematic were J Street’s criticism of Israel’s attack on Gaza last winter, its refusal to reject the Goldstone report and its failure to support additional sanctions on Iran. The same morning Oren spoke, J Street released a statement announcing that it now backed passage of Iran sanctions legislation in Congress.
Oren’s remarks were much more critical than a statement from an Israeli Embassy spokesman in October, when Oren declined an invitation to address J Street’s inaugural conference. At that time, the embassy said it would be "privately communicating its concerns over certain policies of the organization that may impair the interests of Israel."
J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami told The Forward that Oren was misrepresenting J Street’s position.
"I don’t quite understand how it is in the State of Israel’s interest to look at J Street as a problem, to write off an organization that represents a large number of American Jews," he said.