J Street blasts Ayalon’s ‘boycott'

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

ayalon 311 (photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
ayalon 311
(photo credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS)
The left-wing Washington group J Street, together with members of acongressional delegation currently in Israel at the group’s behest,blasted Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon Wednesday in the wake ofhis accusation that J Street was “many things, but not pro-Israel.”
“Idon’t have to agree with J Street ideologically,” Ayalon said in aspeech to the Conference of Presidents gathering in Jerusalem onTuesday, “but it bothers me when they present themselves as somethingthey’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 bashedIsrael on many occasions.”
According to Ayalon, J Street hasrefused to oppose the Goldstone Report and “made a number ofsolicitations in Congress that went against Israel’s interests.”
Buta handful of American legislators currently in Israel on an educationaltour partly funded by J Street rejected Ayalon’s accusation anddemanded a “clarification” as to why the Foreign Ministry refused tomeet with elected officials from the US.
“J Street is profoundlypro-Israel, and every member of this delegation has a long record of[supporting Israel],” delegation head and Massachusetts RepresentativeWilliam Delahunt told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday in response toAyalon’s remarks.
“It was with real surprise and disappointmentthat we read a headline in this morning’s paper saying, ‘ForeignMinistry Boycotts Members of Congress,’” said Delahunt, a member of theHouse Foreign Affairs Committee, to Israeli journalists at a Tel Avivpress conference Wednesday afternoon.
“In our opinion this is aninappropriate way to treat elected representatives of Israel’s closestally who are visiting the country – and who through the years have beenstaunch supporters of the US-Israeli special relationship. We wouldrespectfully ask the government for a clarification of its stancetoward this and future delegations.”
In a statement, the ForeignMinistry said Wednesday it “always welcomes US members of Congress whocome to Israel, and is delighted to arrange for them to meet withIsraeli officials as per their request. However, the Foreign Ministryis disappointed in the attempt to impose who will be present in themeetings, something that is not customary in diplomatic life.”
Thedelegation included four additional representatives – Robert Filner andLois Capps of California, Maro Jo Kilroy of Ohio and Donald Payne ofNew Jersey.
The five-day visit, organized by a JStreet-affiliated education fund and the Washington-based Churches forMiddle East Peace, included meetings with senior Jordanian, Palestinianand Israeli officials, including Jordanian King Abdullah II,Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad and IntelligenceServices Minister Dan Meridor, in addition to both Israeli andPalestinian civil society organizations.
J Street chief JeremyBen-Ami used the opportunity to defend the organization againstcriticism that it did not support Israel on key issues, including theGoldstone Report and Israeli calls for harsh sanctions against theIranian regime to stop its nuclear fuel enrichment program.
Sayingthe organization was “140,000 supporters strong,” Ben Ami insisted it“supports Israel, supports its security, its future, its existence asthe national home of the Jewish people.”
On Iran, J Street is“deeply concerned about the potential threat posed by the developmentof nuclear weapons not only by Iran, but… by proliferation in theregion” and “has urged members of Congress to vote for additionalsanctions on Iran.”
On Goldstone, “those who characterize us inany way as supporting the Goldstone Report are deliberatelymisrepresenting the position of J Street. J Street urges the Israeligovernment to listen to some of the wisest voices in your politicalsystem – [Intelligence Services Minister] Dan Meridor, [former SupremeCourt chief justice] Aharon Barak, [former attorney-general] MenachemMazuz – who call for an independent and credible investigation of thecharges made in the Goldstone Report as the essential and perfect wayto counter these charges. We have urged the United States to preventthe report from moving forward in the United Nations. We are opposed toadditional United Nations consideration [of the report].”
Asked by the Post about the organization’s position on the stalledstate of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Ben Ami said Israelwas partly responsible for the current stalemate.
“I totally agree [with the Israeli view that] the Palestinians need tocome to the table, but Israel can actually have a full and completesettlement freeze that includes east Jerusalem. Nobody is perfect.Nobody has done everything they can.”
The Palestinians, he insisted, are “doing everything required under theRoad 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 Arabworld and the US. The [blame] is shared across the board.”