J Street Withdraws Support for Rashida Tlaib Over Refusal to Endorse Two-state Solution

Left-wing lobby group states it 'will not endorse candidates who don't endorse the two-state solution' after the Palestinian-American congressional nominee walked back on statements she made prior to winning the primary

Rashida Tlaib photographed outside the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, Michigan.
Al Goldis,AP

The left-wing lobby group J Street officially withdrew its support of Palestinian-American congressional nominee Rashida Tlaib Friday, after the candidate from Michigan chose not to publicly endorse a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"J Street will not endorse candidates who don't endorse the two-state solution,” the organization announced.

“After closely consulting with Rashida Tlaib’s campaign to clarify her most current views on various aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we have come to the unfortunate conclusion that a significant divergence in perspectives requires JStreetPAC to withdraw our endorsement of her candidacy,” the group’s statement read. 

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“While we have long championed the value of a wide range of voices in discussion of the conflict and related issues, we cannot endorse candidates who come to the conclusion that they can no longer publicly express unequivocal support for the two-state solution and other core principles to which our organization is dedicated.”

During her race for the Democratic nomination in the state primary, Tlaib actively sought the endorsement of the “pro-Israel and pro-peace” organization, which also allocates financial support for those who back JStreetPAC, the group’s affiliated political action committee. In order to win a vote of approval by the JStreetPAC’s board, Tlaib underwent the group’s extensive vetting process, which included personal interviews. 

The JStreetPAC’s key principles for endorsement include “support for America prioritizing diplomacy toward a two-state outcome between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as “support for continued aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority” and “opposition to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.”

After her primary win, Tlaib gave multiple media interviews expressing views that diverged sharply with J Street’s, explicitly endorsing a one-state solution and opposing aid, a change celebrated by far-left Palestinian activists, who sharply criticized her for seeking out and receiving the J Street endorsement.

 On August 7, Tlaib won the Democratic nomination for Michigan’s 13th Congressional district, a heavily African-American district that includes the city of Detroit and suburbs. Since no candidate ran in the Republican primary, Tlaib is expected to win the seat.

Following her victory, which, since she faces no Republican opposition in the November election, positions her to become one of the first Muslim congresswomen in Congress, her statements in media appearances have shifted sharply, contradicting the positions she represented to J Street. 

In an interview with the website “In These Times,” Tlaib was asked whether she supported a one-state or two-state solution and responded  “One state. It has to be one state. Separate but equal does not work. I’m only 42 years old but my teachers were of that generation that marched with Martin Luther King. This whole idea of a two-state solution, it doesn’t work.”

Regarding U.S. aid to Israel, she said, “Americans should not be aiding any country that doesn’t support human rights. I’ve been very clear. I will not support racist countries that pick and choose who gets access to justice.”

She condemned the “unequal treatment in Israel, in the different colored license plates for Palestinians; and even in the ocean,” recalling, “when I was 19 and with my family and some of them had head scarves on, we all jumped in the water and the Israelis jumped out as if my cousins were diseased.”

At the same time, she said she refused to “dehumanize Israelis,” particularly those who are “marching” and “saying no to Netanyahu’s apartheid policies.”  

In an earlier interview broadcast by Britain’s Channel 4, Tlaib also said she would “absolutely” back withholding aid to Israel, in keeping with her opposition to Israel’s “discrimination.” 

Despite their formal break with Tlaib, J Street lauded her achievement in winning her primary and said Tlaib's expected election in November "as the first Palestinian-American woman Member of Congress will be a historic milestone for the Palestinian-American community and for the United States as a whole."

The group said that it supported her message of social justice and was "inspired by her determination to bring the voice of underrepresented communities to Capitol Hill. We wish her and her campaign well, and we look forward to a close working relationship with her and her office when she takes her seat in Congress."