U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will be the keynote speaker at the J Street annual conference at the end of September, making him the highest-level American official to address the organization since it was founded five years ago.
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Biden will speak before an estimated 3,000 participants on September 30, only a few hours before he attends a meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House.
In a press release issued Tuesday, J Street said that, along with Biden, conference attendees will include U.S. special envoy to the peace process Martin Indyk, Labor Party chairwoman MK Shelly Yacimovich, Meretz chairwoman MK Zahava Gal-On, Likud MK Tzachi Hanegbi, Shas MK Yitzhak Vaknin, Hatnuah MK Meir Sheetrit, Yesh Atid MK Ruth Calderon and Labor MKs Merav Michaeli and Stav Shaffir.
J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami said that Biden’s appearance at the event is a strong indication of the high priority the Obama administration is giving to a peace accord between Israel and the Palestinians, and expressed the hope that J Street’s vision of peace between the two sides would come to fruition.
J Street describes itself as an American Jewish organization that supports Israel and the peace process and promotes the two-state solution. It has marked itself since its founding as supporting Obama and his efforts to advance the peace process. Recently, however, it has decided not to decide on whether to support a possible U.S. strike on Syria.
J Street was founded as a counterweight to veteran Israel advocacy group AIPAC, which is more conservative, particularly on the Palestinian issue. The organization leveled scathing criticism at Israeli government policy during Netanyahu’s last term, particularly with regard to settlement construction. J Street’s ties with the Israel’s embassy in Washington and with the government in Jerusalem were tense at first, but relations have improved over the past two years, and last year Baruch Bina, the embassy’s No.2 diplomat, addressed the organization’s conference.