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!
  • Woody Allen on the situation in #Gaza: It's “a terrible, tragic thing. Innocent lives are lost left and right, and it’s a horrible situation that eventually has to right itself.”
  • "Mark your calendars: It was on Sunday, July 20, that the momentum turned against Israel." J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis on Israel's ground operation in Gaza:
  • What do you think?
  • "To everyone who is reading this article and saying, “Yes, but… Hamas,” I would ask you to just stop with the “buts.” Take a single moment and allow yourself to feel this tremendous loss. Lay down your arms and grieve for the children of Gaza."
  • Professor Dan Markel, 41 years old, was found shot and killed in his Tallahassee home on Friday. Jay Michaelson can't explain the death, just grieve for it.
  • Employees complained that the food they received to end the daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan was not enough (no non-kosher food is allowed in the plant). The next day, they were dismissed.
  • Why are peace activists getting beat up in Tel Aviv? http://jd.fo/s4YsG
  • Backstreet's...not back.
  • Before there was 'Homeland,' there was 'Prisoners of War.' And before there was Claire Danes, there was Adi Ezroni. Share this with 'Homeland' fans!
  • BREAKING: Was an Israeli soldier just kidnapped in Gaza? Hamas' military wing says yes.
  • What's a "telegenically dead" Palestinian?
  • 13 Israeli soldiers die in Gaza — the deadliest day for the IDF in decades. So much for 'precision' strikes and easy exit strategies.
  • What do a Southern staple like okra and an Israeli favorite like tahini have in common? New Orleans chef Alon Shaya brings sabra tastes to the Big Easy.
  • The Cossacks were a feature in every European Jewish kid's worst nightmare. Tuvia Tenenbom went looking for the real-life variety in Ukraine — but you won't believe what he found. http://forward.com/articles/202181/my-hunt-for-the-cossacks-in-ukraine/?
  • French Jews were stunned when an anti-Israel mob besieged a synagogue outside Paris. What happened next could be a historic turning point.
  • 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.