J Street, the controversial left-leaning advocacy group that aims to “support a new direction for American policy in the Middle East,” was dealt a major blow last week when one of its key supporters in Congress announced that he was disassociating himself from the organization.
Representative Gary Ackerman of New York severed his ties with J Street after the group urged the U.S. to join the UN in condemning Israel’s settlement activity.
The liberal congressman, who is considered a steadfast friend of Israel in Congress and a strong advocate for a resolution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, blasted J Street in his statement issued on Jan. 25:
“After learning of J Street’s current public call for the Obama Administration to not veto a prospective UN Security Council resolution that, under the rubric of concern about settlement activity, would effectively and unjustly place the whole responsibility for the current impass in the peace process on Israel, and – critically – would give fresh and powerful impetus to the effort to internationally isolate and delegitimize Israel, I’ve come ot the conclusion that J-Street is not an organization with which I wish to be associated.
“”It is not Israel that is refusing to enter final status negotiations. It is not Israel that has refused again and again to make unilateral gestures of good faith (recall the hundreds of West Bank security checkpoints and roadblocks removed, and the 10 month settlement freeze). It is not Israel that is now trying to force the peace process back in to the same dead-end from which the Obama Administration has spent the past month trying to extract itself. But astonishingly, it is Israel that J-Street would put in the stocks in the public square.
“The decision to endorse the Palestinian and Arab effort to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council, is not the choice of a concerned friend trying to help. It is rather the befuddled choice of an organization so open-minded about what constitutes support for Israel that its brains have fallen out.
“America really does need a smart, credible, politically active organization that is as aggressively pro-peace as it is pro-Israel. Unfortunately, J-Street ain’t it.”
The loss of any support from those on the Hill is troubling for the young organization. But Ackerman’s departure in particular is especially troubling. For one thing, he represents a lot of Jews; Ackerman’s 5th district in New York ranks among the 10 most Jewish districts in the nation. In addition, a former chair and now ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee on the Middle East, Ackerman has strong ties with leaders from Israel and Arab countries.
Just how much of a cloud Ackerman’s move will cast over J Street’s future remains to be seen. One test will be the roster of congressmen, administration officials and Israel representatives who turn up at the group’s second national conference coming up next month.