J Street, Liberal Pro-Israel Group, Claims Big Win on Chuck Hagel

Progressive Group Proves It's a Player in Obama's D.C.

Key Role: Once shunned, J-Street is now a mainstream player in Washington. The liberal group is trumpeting its help pushing through the nomination of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
getty images
Key Role: Once shunned, J-Street is now a mainstream player in Washington. The liberal group is trumpeting its help pushing through the nomination of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

By Reuters

Published March 10, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 3 of 3)

Ben-Ami was among more than 20 Jewish community leaders, including some from AIPAC, who met Obama on Thursday to provide input for his first trip as president to Israel later this month.

J Street describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace.” It is more supportive than many other Jewish groups of a “two-state” Middle East agreement leading to an independent Palestinian state and a secure Israel.

Ben-Ami, who served as an aide to then President Bill Clinton and worked on a series of Democratic political campaigns, founded the group in his basement five years ago.

Today it says it has 50 staff, 15,000 donors and some 180,000 supporters. Its political action committee distributed $1.8 million to candidates last year.

But the going has not been easy. Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, declined an invitation to speak at the group’s inaugural 2009 conference - where Hagel delivered the keynote - although the two reportedly have since reconciled. The Israeli embassy did not respond to a request for comment.

In 2010, some politicians, including New York Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman, publicly rejected J Street’s backing, under pressure from conservative Jewish American leaders and Israeli officials who said its positions were anti-Israel.

In last November’s election, it endorsed 71 candidates - all Democrats - for federal offices. While it’s unclear how influential the J Street endorsement was, 70 of the 71 won.

Just last year, after the United Nations approved the de facto recognition of Palestinian statehood, J Street successfully opposed efforts by more conservative groups to close the Palestinian office in Washington in retaliation. Ben-Ami counts that as a victory for J Street’s moderate position.

A possible sign of better relations with Israel came last month when members of a congressional delegation to Israel organized by J Street met with top government officials. Three years ago, Israel’s foreign ministry had boycotted the J Street delegation.

“In 2013, it’s fair to say that J Street has established its place as an important advocacy group in the larger pro-Israel community,” said Daniel Kurtzer, who was U.S. ambassador to Egypt under Clinton and to Israel from 2001 to 2005 during the administration of George W. Bush.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.