Senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett was added on Friday to the list of
speakers to address the J Street conference opening here this
She joins Tony Blinken, national security adviser to Vice
President Joe Biden, in representing the administration before the 2,500
activists the progressive Jewish lobby is expecting to host at its third annual
They will appear at a plenary session Monday asking whether
the US can help to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though Jarrett
usually focuses on domestic issues in her role at the White House.
that day, at the gala dinner, J Street activists will hear from former prime
minister Ehud Olmert, who joins four current Labor and Meretz members of the
Knesset at the conference as well as a handful of other Israeli political and
In addition, for the first time the Israeli Embassy will
send a high-level participant. Barukh Binah, the deputy chief of mission, will
offer opening remarks at the gala dinner.
An Israeli official pointed to
recent steps that J Street has taken that show a “positive trend” in its
positions, which have often been criticized by the Israeli government. He
pointed in particular to J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami’s rejection of
journalist Peter Beinart’s call for a boycott of West Bank settlements – in
contrast to Israel proper – published on Monday in The New York
Beinart, however, is still being welcomed at the conference and
will hold a book signing for his new work, The Crisis of
Novelist Amos Oz will be another participating offer, and he is
set to speak at the opening session Saturday night.
The conference runs
through Tuesday, when the participants will head to Capitol Hill to lobby their
members of Congress on the need for the US to continue pushing for a twostate
solution and to push back against those would question the US role for political
purposes – understood to be aimed at Republican presidential candidates who have
criticized many of President Barack Obama’s policies on Israel.
Street spokeswoman would not specify whether J Street constituents would have a
letter making these points for members of Congress to circulate and sign on to,
which is traditionally a component of such lobbying.
Five members of
Congress are scheduled to address the gathering, including Democrats Barbara Lee
of California and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts.
J Street estimates that
about 60 members of Congress will participate in the conference, including at
the panels, the gala and the pre-lobby welcome event on Capitol Hill on Tuesday
morning, roughly the same as last year.
MK Danny Danon (Likud) sent a
letter to all 120 members of Knesset on Friday, telling them to stay away the J
“Promoting Iranian interests in the US, working
against the state in its battle against the Palestinians in the UN and censuring
the Israeli government while supporting the Palestinians are only the tip of the
iceberg for the anti-Israel organization called J Street,” Danon
The Likud MK said that it is the duty of all MKs to reject any
connection with an organization that works against Israeli
Senior officials’ participation legitimizes J Street’s
“destructive messages,” Danon said.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai last
week urged Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor
Liberman not to allow high-ranking officials to attend the conference.