J Street meets Livni, who rebukes Ayalon


I wrote Wednesday about the snub that Danny Ayalon, the Israeli deputy foreign minister, delivered to J Street when he refused to meet with the congressional delegation touring the Middle East under the aegis of organization’s educational affiliate and Churches for Middle East Peace. Ayalon said he would meet with the lawmakers, as long as they did not bring the J Street and CMEP staffers with them.

The group did meet with Dan Meridor, one of five deputy prime ministers — because, depending on who’s doing the talking, Ayalon granted one such meeting out of noblesse oblige, or because Meridor doesn’t take orders from deputy foreign ministers. (Knowing both men, I tend to believe the latter.)

Thursday, they met with Tzipi Livni, the former foreign minister and now the opposition leader. She didn’t have much time for Ayalon:

We are all concerned about Israel’s future and want what is good for it. Even if there are difference of opinion, and there are, that is not the way to treat Israel’s friends who want what is good for it. Certainly when there are so many who threaten us it, we can not afford to lose those who consider themselves Israel’s friends, and even when there is criticism, it is our job as leaders to persuade others we are right instead of giving up the right to do so.

J Street forwarded the statement to press; interestingly they also attached Livni’s warning about Iran:

We must bolster the U.S. administration’s efforts to impose harsher sanctions on Iran. The Iranians are playing with the world and trying to earn time, and therefore it is time for severe and harsh sanctions against any attempt by them to further their nuclear program. Iran is not an Israeli problem but the problem of the whole free world.

I know "interesting" is meaningless and far too promiscuously used in the blogosphere, so let me elaborate: Perhaps the number one reason cited by Israelis and the Jewish establishment for J Street’s isolation has been its dithering last year on Iran sanctions. (This never made much sense: As opposed to J Street, Americans for Peace Now has come down firmly against the new sanctions being proposed in Congress, yet is still very much part of the establishment.)

Now, as Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington has noted, J Street is firmly in favor of immediate passage of the sanctions legislation — and has been since December. This e-mail seems to be a way of reminding us all of that.

Couple of things, sent in by readers:

* One reader who was present when Ayalon told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that J Street was "not pro-Israeli" said Ayalon specifically referred to the organzation’s refusal to outright condemn the Goldstone report into last year’s Gaza war, which charged Israel and Hamas with war crimes. (J Street has admonished the United Nations Human Rights Council, which commissioned the report, to treat Israel fairly, but has stopped short of condemning the report.)

* Another reader notes that, in his statement rebuking Ayalon, the congressional delegation leader, Rep. William Delahunt (D-Mass.), says the deputy foreign minister referred to J Street as "anti-Israel." That’s not what Ayalon actually said, although Ma’ariv has quoted unnamed Israeli Foreign Ministry officials as using that term.

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