After Oren Snub, Livni Praises J Street Conference

By Barak Ravid and Natasha Mozgovaya (Haaretz) and Haaretz Service

Published October 22, 2009.
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Opposition leader and Kadima chairwoman Tzipi Livni on Wednesday sent a letter to left-wing pro-Israel lobby J Street commending the group on its upcoming conference, despite increasingly strained relations between it and Israel’s government.

The discussion of what best advances Israel’s cause should “be inclusive and broad enough to encompass a variety of views, provided it is conducted in a respectful and legitimate manner,” Livni wrote in her letter to J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Michael Oren, the Israeli envoy to the United States, on Tuesday rejected an invitation from J Street to attend its first national conference. The Embassy of Israel in the United States on Tuesday said it would send an “observer” to the conference next week, in place of Ambassador Oren.

Livni is also not attending the conference due to schedule constraints, but she wrote in her letter that senior Kadima party members would be present.

“I believe most American Jews support Israel and want to see it thrive as a Jewish and democratic state,” Livni wrote in her letter. “Like you, I believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by realizing the vision of two nation states living side by side in peace and security is in the best interests of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians and the region as a whole.”

She added that members of the pro-Israel community may not always agree on everything. However, she said, “I do believe that we must ensure that what unites us as Jews who are committed to Israel’s future as a secure, Jewish, and democratic state is far greater than what separates us.”

Oren has repeatedly snubbed the young and energetic “pro-peace and pro-Israel” Washington lobby and has refused to meet its members.

“We believe the Government of Israel will be missing an opportunity should it choose not to engage with the over 1,200 pro-Israel activists who will be in attendance at the J Street conference next week,” a spokesperson for the lobby said in response to Oren’s rejection.

Meanwhile, the poets who were to appear at the J Street conference before their session was canceled after a conservative blogger said one of them had compared Guantanamo prison to Auschwitz are planning a separate event.

Poets Kevin Coval and Josh Healey announced Thursday that they have decided to proceed with the event, in which they will share their poems about Israel/Palestine, identity and justice and free speech.

Another J Street conference attendee, National Security Advisor to the President General James L. Jones, who is set to address the J Street conference on October 25, is also scheduled to address on the following day a summit of Arab American leaders.

Jones will brief summit attendees from 19 states, who represent over 35 Arab American organizations and businesses, on the Obama administration’s continuing focus on a wide range of Arab American issues.






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