U.S.-Israel Tensions Ignite 'War of Words' Among Israel Lobbies

Natasha Mozgovaya
Haaretz Correspondent
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Natasha Mozgovaya
Haaretz Correspondent

In the past week, U.S. based pro-Israel groups from every variety of political viewpoint has had something to say about the crisis in relations between the U.S. and Israel which stemmed from Israel's announcement of plans to build 1,600 housing units in East Jerusalem.

J Street has launched a campaign in support of Washington's firm stance on Israel's latest approved building plan in East Jerusalem, the dovish U.S. pro-Israel lobby announced on Tuesday.

The U.S. has said it regarded last week's decision - made public while U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was in Israel - as an insult.

Recent U.S.-Israel tensions were used by "hawkish pro-Israel activists," according to the announcement posted on J Street's website, "to attack the Obama Administration over Israel, urging the Administration to slow down and back off."

In response to this, the left-leaning lobby said, "the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement is stepping up strong."

"Earlier this week, J Street leadership delivered over 18,000 signatures to White House officials demonstrating that large numbers of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans agree with the Vice President when he says 'sometimes only a friend can deliver the hardest truth,' and urging the Administration to turn this crisis into an opportunity for progress on two states," the group's announcement said.

Meanwhile, The Israel Project said their group members have sent 27,000 letters (and counting) to American leaders and the media on the issue of maintaining strong Israel-U.S. ties.

The pro-Israel lobby AIPAC also told their members to send a message to Congress members emphasizing the importance of a strong Israel-U.S. relationship.

A statement sent out by the National Jewish Democratic Council addressed with concern the recent war of words between the differing pro-Israel organizations.

"Those who would abandon the bipartisan history of strengthening U.S.-Israel ties to engage in reckless rhetoric are advancing only their own ends - at the cost of Israel's security, and at the cost of the U.S.-Israel relationship," they said.

J Street's statement in support of the U.S. continued, saying "Too much time has already been lost in getting the two sides into negotiations. We cannot let any single provocative Israeli announcement of construction in East Jerusalem, no matter how infuriating, delay progress towards a two-state solution. Bold American leadership is needed now to turn this crisis into a real opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

Abraham Foxman, who heads the Anti-Defamation League, told Haaretz he believed U.S. President Barack Obama was a friend of Israel.

"But I think it's a mistaken and counterproductive strategy and flawed analysis of what is in the best interest of the U.S.," Foxman said. "Support of Israel has served the U.S. interests more than supporting anyone else in the world."