By Jonathan Greenberg, Originally published in The Hill
Since its formation shortly after the election of President Obama, J Street – the leftist group that supports American pressure on Israel to force one-sided concessions in the peace process – has functioned as little more than a pawn of Administration policy. “Our No. 1 agenda item,” said J Street head Jeremy Ben-Ami, “is to do whatever we can in Congress to act as the president’s blocking back.”
And, through it all, J Street’s love has never wavered. When the president chose to have the U.S. join the U.N. Human Rights Council, he got two thumbs up from J Street. When the president told a group of Jewish organizational leaders that there needed to be “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel, J Street had Obama’s back. When the president insisted that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations begin on the basis of the pre-Six Day War armistice lines (which would have consigned the Old City of Jerusalem to part of a foreign country), J Street was a vocal defender. In late 2013, with the Senate considering a new round of Iran sanctions, J Street cited the president’s opposition as the reason for their own.
At the J Street annual conference in Washington this past spring, speaker after speaker brought the crowd to its feet with condemnations of Israeli “occupation.” Even chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat – who must have left his Holocaust denial notes in his other suicide vest – got multiple standing ovations. The one speaker to touch on Israeli security – White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, using the same boilerplate he would use before an actual pro-Israel crowd – was met with chirping crickets when he reiterated the administration’s commitment to security cooperation and military aid for Israel. At a meeting in Chicago in April, Ben-Ami questioned the proportionality of Israeli actions in Gaza – a distortion of reality usually reserved for Israel’s most hardened enemies.