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While the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has declined to attend next week's conference sponsored by the left-leaning J Street advocacy group in the American capital, on the contention that it is acting against the interests of the Israeli government, President Shimon Peres has sent the group a letter of congratulations on its activities.

In his letter to J Street's executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, in response to an invitation to Peres to attend the gathering, the Israeli president wrote "While I am fully aware of the importance of your first national conference, regrettably my commitments prevent me from attending. However, I wish to congratulate you on your initiative to form a pro-Israeli-Palestinian and pro-Israeli-Arab peace organization, and the support you have garnered on behalf of this mission in the American political and Jewish communities arena is indeed impressive."

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni (Kadima) also sent a letter saying she would not attend the conference, but that the party will be represented by Haim Ramon and MKs Shlomo Molla and Meir Sheetrit. Livni noted that although she doesn't agree with some of J Street's positions, she said it is a legitimate organization which should be engaged in dialogue. She congratulated the organization on the conference.

In his letter, Peres also noted: "The Israel that stretches out its hand in peace is not only an Israel that addresses a geo-political reality and discharges its strategic interests: it is an Israel that acts according to the commands of the conscience and values of the Jewish People." He concluded his letter by writing, "I wish the organizers and participants of this conference a successful and fruitful event."

Among those who will be attending the conference are U.S. National Security Adviser James Jones, in addition to many members of Congress.