Democratic Members of Congress, Brought to Israel by J Street, Meet With Lapid

This is the first meeting between a J Street delegation and an Israeli cabinet official in at least four years, after Netanyahu and former ambassador Ron Dermer boycotted the organization during their years in power

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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Yair Lapid with congresswomen Barbara Lee and Rosa DeLauro in the Knesset, today.
Yair Lapid with congresswomen Barbara Lee and Rosa DeLauro in the Knesset, today.Credit: Twitter
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON – Senior Democratic members of Congress currently visiting Israel on a delegation put together by the pro-Israel, left wing J Street organization met with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid on Monday. This is likely the first meeting between a J Street delegation and an Israeli cabinet official in at least four years.

Among the members of the delegation include senior Democratic lawmakers such as Reps. Rosa DeLauro (the House Appropriations Committee chair who was a key figure in passing a standalone bill granting Israel $1 billion in emergency funding for the Iron Dome missile defense system) and Barbara Lee (the chair of the House subcommittee on foreign operations).

Also on the trip are Reps. Mark Pocan and Jamaal Bowman, vocal advocates of a two-state solution who have not hesitated to openly criticize Israel for its treatment of Palestinians. First-term lawmaker Rep. Melanie Stansbury, recently elected in a New Mexico special election, is also participating in the delegation.

The fact that a senior cabinet official met with such a delegation marks a stark shift from the years under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who effectively led a government boycott of J Street along with former Israel Ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer. Netanyahu previously attacked J Street as a "radical leftist U.S. organization" that was rooting for his ouster due to its support for the Iran nuclear deal.

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The delegation will meet with President Isaac Herzog, ministers such as Merav Michaeli and Essawi Frej, lawmakers and military representatives, as well as with Palestinian Authority officials such as Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh and other Israeli and Palestinian civil society leaders, issue experts and activists.

The lawmakers will travel to Israel's southern border "to learn more about the recurring rounds of conflict between Israel and Hamas, the effects of rocket fire on Israeli border communities and the impact of Iron Dome, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis faced by the people of Gaza," according to a J Street spokesperson.

They will also tour the West Bank, meeting with both a settler movement representative as well as visiting Hebron and an Area C Palestinian community in the South Hebron Hills. They will also tour the Yad Vashem Holocaust remembrance center, Jerusalem's Old City and East Jerusalem.

J Street has spent the past year fashioning itself as the majority voice for the majority power in the U.S., a departure from its longstanding role as leaders of the American-Jewish community's vocal opposition.

It has accordingly used its new power to push the Biden administration to take a more active role in holding Israel accountable for its actions toward the Palestinians, while actively throwing its weight behind legislation that seeks to further increase the chances of a two-state solution.

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