There's a delegation of J Street high muckamucks in Israel this week, and they're not having an easy time of it. Few members of the Israeli government will meet with them, and, in fact, they'll find a friendlier reception at the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
According to one news account, J Street even received a chilly reception from President Shimon Peres, Israel's leading peacenik. The Walla Internet site reported, "The President met yesterday with representatives of the American Jewish lobby and told them, 'As president I don’t like the way in which you are working,' Walla News learned." The story continued, "that while Peres agreed to meet the heads of the controversial lobby in Israel, in the course of the meeting he sharply criticized their methods of action. According to the president some of their activity causes the delegitimization of Israel."
Wow, that's a megaton put-down, if there ever was one, and coming from one of Israel's leading doves, too.
No wonder, then, someone worked very hard to remove the story from the Walla site. But a screen capture appears on this page.
Three hours later a new story appeared on Walla presenting J Street's side of the story and adding a statement from President Peres' office saying that the meeting took place on "tranquil waters." But somehow the truth wiggled out, and the story's subhead retained elements of the tension between J Street and Peres.
"In a special meeting held by representatives of the leftist American-Jewish lobby with the president, the J Street people were privileged [sic] to receive criticism from Peres, despite their saying that they support Israel."
What happened in those three hours? Jeremy Ben-Ami's Israeli PR company, Ben-Or Communications, helped set up the meetings. Was there a general mobilization of the Ben-Or PR staff to limit and contain the damage from the first Walla story?
בפגישה מיוחדת שקיימו נציגי שדולת השמאל האמריקאית-יהודית עם הנשיא, זכו אנשי ג'יי-סטריט לביקורת מצד פרס, למרות שאמרו כי הם תומכים בישראל
The second story still provided several damning examples presented by Members of the Knesset to Peres of J Street's anti-Israel activity. See below.
J Street to President Peres: “We Fight Those who Boycott Israel”
By Pinchas Wolf, Walla News staff, May 2, 2011 23:44
In a special meeting held by representatives of the leftist American-Jewish lobby with the president, the J Street people were privileged [sic] to receive criticism from Peres, despite their saying that they support Israel. The right was furious over the meeting.
“We fight against those who want to boycott Israel” is what representatives of the American Jewish lobby J Street said in the meeting on Sunday with President Shimon Peres. Despite the pressure on Peres not to hold the meeting, he told his visitors that on principle he is the president of the whole Jewish people and he insists on the path of dialogue. Peres assured that if there was a need in the course of his meeting, “I would not hesitate to say tough things.” In the end, the meeting was calm [over tranquil waters], and Peres did not attack the lobby’s representatives.
The organization called on the president to work for an Israeli initiative for peace. As to the unilateral declaration at the UN for recognition of a Palestinian state expected in September, the J Street people said, “We are in a race against time to reach an agreement. We are obligated and the government of Israel is obligated to initiate a renewal of the process and not be dragged after the world.”
Many in Israel were not happy with the meeting taking place. Heads of the Eretz Yisrael lobby in the Knesset, MKs Ze’ev Elkin (Likud), Arye Eldad (Ichud Haleumi), who thought the meeting would take place tomorrow, sent a letter today to the president demanding that he not meet with representatives of the organization who they called “an anti-Israel organization in every way.” They called on Peres to show “national responsibilities and loyalty to the stately position and avoid meeting with representatives of J Street.”
In their letter to the president the two pointed out several examples of what they called “J Street’s anti-Israel activity.” In one example, the writers claimed that Jeremy Ben-Ami, the lobby’s director, cooperated with the Iranian lobby in the US and publicized an article against a congressional initiative to place sanctions on Iran. In another example, the two pointed out that J Street assisted Judge Goldstone to appear on Capitol Hill and organized meetings for him with Members of Congress and the Administration. According to them, one of the directors of J Street even wrote a letter to Members of Congress supporting the Goldstone report. A third example is from Jan. 1, 2011 when, according to Elkin and Eldad, J Street called on the US president, Barak Obama, not to veto a UNSC resolution condemning Israel.
The president’s office responded to the charges, “the president is committed to the path of discussion and not closing doors, and even when dealing with organizations with whom he had differences, he prefers to tell them to their faces what he thinks and not to slam doors.”
J Street responded that “J Street leadership expresses its appreciation to President Peres for holding the meeting in a positive manner in which leadership of the organization expressed support for Israel and Israel’s need to reach an agreement in order to guarantee its security and wellbeing for generations.” President of the organization Jeremy Ben-Ami added, “I’m aware of the heavy pressures applied by extremist sources in Israel and overseas who spread bold lies about the organization and its supporters, America Jews who love Israel.”