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Ayalon on J Street: ‘They Should Not Call Themselves Pro-Israeli’

Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister stopped just short of calling J Street “anti-Israel” at a February 16 meeting of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.

“The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in an address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.”

Ayalon’s remark stood in contrast to a recent thaw in the relationship between J Street, a left-wing lobbying group, and the Israeli government, including statements by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who, after calling J Street a “unique problem” in a December address, is reconciling with the group.

In a recent interview with the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, Oren almost entirely backed off of his prior critique of J Street, saying, “The J Street controversy has come a long way toward resolving.” He praised the organization for supporting the Iran sanctions bill put forward by Congressman Howard Berman, and for its criticism of the Goldstone Report. Taken together, Oren said that these and other positions have put “J Street much more into the mainstream.”

Other signs of J Street’s increasing acceptance by the Israeli government came February 16, in an interview with J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami on the popular Israel Army Radio morning program “Ma Boer.” Ben-Ami, who is in Israel on a J Street-sponsored congressional delegation, said that his group had secured a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor. He also revealed that the Israeli Embassy’s Washington staff had been in conversation with J Street staff, and that he hoped to meet one-on-one with Oren.

“I think we’re well beyond the immediate conflict that you may have heard about,” Ben-Ami told “Ma Boer” host Razi Barkai.

A J Street spokesperson declined to comment on Ayalon’s criticism of the group. Also in his Conference of Presidents address, Ayalon questioned the loyalty of Israeli Arab Knesset members. “There are Arab members of Knesset who were advisors to Arafat and now to Mahmoud Abbas,” Ayalon said. “This is like U.S. members of Congress advising the Taliban.”

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