The informal boycott imposed by Israel’s ambassador to Washington on the dovish lobby J Street ended Thursday with a meeting between Ambassador Michael Oren and Jeremy Ben-Ami, J Street’s founder and president.
Prior to Thursday’s meeting, the Israeli embassy in Washington maintained only low-level contacts with the dovish lobby and ambassador Oren declined an invitation to speak at the group’s inaugural conference last year. Oren also said, in a December gathering of the Conservative movement, that J Street presents a “unique problem” and that it is “significantly out of the mainstream.”
The meeting Thursday marked a new page in relations between J-Street and the Israeli diplomatic mission. Ben-Ami and other J Street officials were also invited to the embassy’s reception on Wednesday marking Israel’s 62nd independence day.
A brief statement by the Israeli embassy confirmed the meeting took place and said it was part of the “growing outreach of the embassy to Jewish organizations and interest groups.”
J Street’s statement offered more information. The meeting, according to J Street, builds on months of prior discussions aimed at “clarifying the Israeli government’s understanding of J Street’s views and included a forthright discussion of points of agreement and disagreement.”
Jeremy Ben-Ami said after the meeting that he applauds the ambassador’s commitment to build bridges to the pro-Israel pro-peace community. “The Ambassador clearly recognizes the importance of dialogue and communication between the State of Israel and those parts of the American Jewish community that are deeply pro-Israel but at times disagree with the policies of its government,” said Ben-Ami.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, is 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.