J Street, On Political Roll, Reaches Out to Israeli Center — and Even Right

Dovish Group's Conference Draws Wider Spectrum Than Ever

Bigger Tent: Tzipi Livni, the centrist leader of Israel’s peace talks delegation, addresses the J Street conference.
j street
Bigger Tent: Tzipi Livni, the centrist leader of Israel’s peace talks delegation, addresses the J Street conference.

By Nathan Guttman

Published October 04, 2013, issue of October 11, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Just a few years ago, the dovish Israel lobby J Street was anathema to most mainstream politicians in Israel. But at the group’s fourth national conference, perhaps the most notable feature was the range of public officials it drew from across Israel’s Jewish political spectrum.

“Why should there be any problem?” asked Tzachi Hanegbi, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party, when asked if he expected any repercussions for his decision to attend the lobby’s conference. “I’m used to arguing with leftists for 30 years.”

Yitzhak Vaknin, a member of Shas, an ultra-Orthodox Sephardic party, explained his presence at the conference, saying, “I believe we should love every Jew in the world.”

And Meir Sheetrit of the Hatnuah party, which is part of Netanyahu’s coalition, added: “We’re talking to everyone. I don’t see any problem.”

It was a lonely, critical voice in Israel that served as a reminder that viewing J Street as a legitimate partner for dialogue was, until not so long ago, far from the Israeli consensus.

“I am asking them — dear MKs, are these your friends? Are these the elements with whom you choose to identify?” Ayelet Shaked from the right-wing Ha’Bayit Ha’Yehudi party wrote on her Facebook page. “Your participation in the conference grants legitimacy to extreme and unbalanced criticism of Israel.”

If so, it was a stance legitimated not just by a range of Israeli politicians, but also by Vice President Joe Biden, who appeared at the conference as a keynote speaker.

But the road to the heart of Israel’s political consensus has been tied, to a great extent, to J Street’s willingness to accept a variety of views, many of which are far away from the group’s opening position. An organization that started off as the home for the progressive left has since found itself increasingly broadening its tent to include more centrist voices.


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!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • 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.