Washington D.C. — The Israel Project, one of the country’s fastest-growing pro-Israel advocacy groups, is on the brink of new leadership and a revised set of goals.
Founded a decade ago to influence journalists and other media professionals by connecting them with timely, pro-Israel information, The Israel Project announced on August 22 that Josh Block, a former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, will be its new CEO. He will succeed the group’s founder and president, Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, who stepped down earlier this year.
Insiders describe a “major organizational transformation” that will accompany the transition, which will include the closing of some of TIP’s flagship programs reaching out to media and public opinion leaders outside the United States. The development will mark a change in both style and substance for the organization, reflecting the new priorities of its major donors.
Officials with TIP would not discuss the details of upcoming shifts. But the Forward has confirmed the program changes with four independent sources who are informed about TIP’s internal decision process. All of them agreed to discuss the matter only on condition of anonymity, because the board has yet to announce the changes.
Founded in 2002 with a stated mission of providing journalists and policymakers with reliable information and background about Israel, the organization quickly grew and earned its place in the front row of pro-Israel advocacy. It ultimately gained more prominence and clout than many older and more established organizations. Under the leadership of Mizrahi, an energetic former public relations strategist whose trademark red skirt suits have marked her presence at major pro-Israel gatherings, the not-for-profit organization reached revenue of more than $19 million in 2010, the last tax year on file, with 75 full-time employees and with offices in Washington and Jerusalem.
TIP’s message resembled that of AIPAC, the Jewish community’s powerful mainstream pro-Israel lobby. But it came wrapped in a new and appealing package. The group ran TV ads praising Israel’s diversity and religious freedom, while still speaking out on the key points of pro-Israel advocacy: opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions and backing the Israeli government’s positions regarding the Palestinian conflict. The group’s style typically involved coaxing reporters with crucial information and access to key policymakers rather than confrontation and accusations of anti-Israel bias. Its leaders innovated outreach campaigns to news media in Europe, the Arab world and other Middle Eastern countries.
Block, now slated to take over the helm of the organization, could bring a different style. His nine-year tenure as AIPAC’s spokesman and his subsequent career in the private sector have gained Block a reputation as a combative defender of Israel, eager to take on its detractors — especially those within the Democratic Party, the foreign policy community and even Jewish circles — who veer off the unofficial though well-defined mainstream pro-Israel road.