J Street blasts Ayalon’s ‘boycott'

Left-wing group head: ‘Israel is capable of freezing east J’lem construction’

By BY HAVIV RETTIG GUR
February 18, 2010 02:29
3 minute read.
Pe’er returns shot in Dubai.

ayalon 311. (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 
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The left-wing Washington group J Street, together with members of a congressional delegation currently in Israel at the group’s behest, blasted Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon Wednesday in the wake of his accusation that J Street was “many things, but not pro-Israel.”

“I don’t have to agree with J Street ideologically,” Ayalon said in a speech to the Conference of Presidents gathering in Jerusalem on Tuesday, “but it bothers me when they present themselves as something they’re not. They can say they’re Jewish, or pro-peace, or whatever, but they can’t [say] they are a pro-Israel organization. They’ve bashed Israel on many occasions.”

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According to Ayalon, J Street has refused to oppose the Goldstone Report and “made a number of solicitations in Congress that went against Israel’s interests.”

But a handful of American legislators currently in Israel on an educational tour partly funded by J Street rejected Ayalon’s accusation and demanded a “clarification” as to why the Foreign Ministry refused to meet with elected officials from the US.

“J Street is profoundly pro-Israel, and every member of this delegation has a long record of [supporting Israel],” delegation head and Massachusetts Representative William Delahunt told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday in response to Ayalon’s remarks.

“It was with real surprise and disappointment that we read a headline in this morning’s paper saying, ‘Foreign Ministry Boycotts Members of Congress,’” said Delahunt, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, to Israeli journalists at a Tel Aviv press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“In our opinion this is an inappropriate way to treat elected representatives of Israel’s closest ally who are visiting the country – and who through the years have been staunch supporters of the US-Israeli special relationship. We would respectfully ask the government for a clarification of its stance toward this and future delegations.”

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In a statement, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it “always welcomes US members of Congress who come to Israel, and is delighted to arrange for them to meet with Israeli officials as per their request. However, the Foreign Ministry is disappointed in the attempt to impose who will be present in the meetings, something that is not customary in diplomatic life.”

The delegation included four additional representatives – Robert Filner and Lois Capps of California, Maro Jo Kilroy of Ohio and Donald Payne of New Jersey.

The five-day visit, organized by a J Street-affiliated education fund and the Washington-based Churches for Middle East Peace, included meetings with senior Jordanian, Palestinian and Israeli officials, including Jordanian King Abdullah II, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and Intelligence Services Minister Dan Meridor, in addition to both Israeli and Palestinian civil society organizations.

J Street chief Jeremy Ben-Ami used the opportunity to defend the organization against criticism that it did not support Israel on key issues, including the Goldstone Report and Israeli calls for harsh sanctions against the Iranian regime to stop its nuclear fuel enrichment program.

Saying the organization was “140,000 supporters strong,” Ben Ami insisted it “supports Israel, supports its security, its future, its existence as the national home of the Jewish people.”

On Iran, J Street is “deeply concerned about the potential threat posed by the development of nuclear weapons not only by Iran, but… by proliferation in the region” and “has urged members of Congress to vote for additional sanctions on Iran.”

On Goldstone, “those who characterize us in any way as supporting the Goldstone Report are deliberately misrepresenting the position of J Street. J Street urges the Israeli government to listen to some of the wisest voices in your political system – [Intelligence Services Minister] Dan Meridor, [former Supreme Court chief justice] Aharon Barak, [former attorney-general] Menachem Mazuz – who call for an independent and credible investigation of the charges made in the Goldstone Report as the essential and perfect way to counter these charges. We have urged the United States to prevent the report from moving forward in the United Nations. We are opposed to additional United Nations consideration [of the report].”

Asked by the Post about the organization’s position on the stalled state of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Ben Ami said Israel was partly responsible for the current stalemate.

“I totally agree [with the Israeli view that] the Palestinians need to come to the table, but Israel can actually have a full and complete settlement freeze that includes east Jerusalem. Nobody is perfect. Nobody has done everything they can.”

The Palestinians, he insisted, are “doing everything required under the Road Map: in terms of security, building the institutions of statehood, setting up a justice system, economic development and growth, [but] neither side is doing everything they need to do, [not even] the Arab world and the US. The [blame] is shared across the board.”

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