J Street, ADL launch war of words over Obama Israel policy
J Street chief sent letter in response to New York Times ad paid for by ADL chief Abe Foxman.
Nearly seven months after the inauguration of Barack Obama, feuding among major U.S. Jews organizations is taking place behind closed doors and could be reaching its worst point in recent memory.
Left-wing U.S. Jewish organizations have been buoyed by the election of Obama, and according to some Jewish Democrats in Washington, tensions have been worsened by the lessening of right-wing Jews' access to senior White House officials, in contrast to the near-monopoly they had on access to Bush administration officials for the past eight years.
The feuding may have become more personal this week, after left-wing Israel advocacy group "J Street" published an open letter Anti-Defamation League Head Abraham Foxman.
The J Street letter came in a response to a full-page ad taken out by the ADL in the New York Times this week, which said, "The problem isn't settlements, it's Arab rejection."
In the J Street letter, the group's founder Jeremy Ben-Ami refutes Foxman's claims, saying peace "isn't advanced by pointing fingers at either side", and adding that the best route forward is "to get all sides to the table with strong U.S. leadership to figure out how we move together before time runs out on a peaceful resolution to this conflict."
In comments Foxman made to Haaretz this week, he repeated his contention that settlements are not the main issue central to a peace plan, saying "everybody understands that the American government whatever the administration, has never been happy about settlements, nor with the annexation of Jerusalem, but it's all a question of how much focus they on the issue, how much public attention they give it."
Foxman also called on the Obama administration to avoid focusing too much on demanding measures from Israel, saying "first of all, they have to stop the overkill. Every opportunity that they have to bash Israel they do."
"J Street is really pleased to engage in a substantive discussion with Abe Foxman and the ADL - as friends of Israel - around U.S. policy in the Middle East," Ben-Ami said in response to media inquiries. "Jewish Americans who care about Israel do differ on how best to advance U.S. and Israeli interests, and it is healthy for us to model how a productive conversation, not a war of words, can be held on this sensitive topic."