There are only a few days left until Benjamin Netanyahu descends on Washington, and preparations within the Jewish community are in high gear. That means, of course, that it’s time for some inter-organizational fighting.
The first question is who will get to meet Bibi. The Israeli embassy is putting together a list of 40 communal leaders that will cram into the Blair House meeting room on Tuesday to hear the prime minister sum up his first visit with President Obama.
So far, based on a partial sample of Jewish organizations, all the major mainstream groups are in, as are some of the smaller political groups (Zionist Organization of America, from the right, and Americans for Peace Now, from the left). Notably absent is the up and coming dovish lobby J Street. Not a big surprise considering the group’s harsh criticism of the Netanyahu government and their call for U.S. pressure on Israel to move forward with the peace process.
Then there’s the substance.
All Jewish advocacy groups are pitching in to tell Congress, the administration and even the Israelis what exactly should be said and done at the May 18 meeting between Netanyahu and Obama.
AIPAC is lobbying for a Congressional letter supporting the White House’s drive for peace, but stating that “the parties themselves must negotiate the details of any agreement.”
J Street is pushing for a different letter, which calls for a policy that will “actively working to de-escalate conflict and advance peace.”
But that’s not all: Americans for Peace Now put out an action alert calling on its activists to urge Obama to “stick to his guns,” and not give up on the two-state solution. And the Israel Policy Forum out a letter, signed by former ambassadors to the region, encouraging Obama to take an active role in promoting Israeli–Palestinian peace.
So, which of the letters will the president have read as he sits down with Netanyahu in the Oval Office?
Given his extremely busy schedule this week, probably none of them.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
On the Eve of Bibi's U.S. Visit, Jewish Groups Fight it Out