WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden thanked J Street on Friday for endorsing his presidential campaign and complimented the leading left-wing Jewish group for its “unyielding dedication to the survival and security of Israel.”
J Street’s decision to endorse Biden, and his warm response, comes several weeks after Biden sent a video message to the annual AIPAC conference and expressed his gratitude for AIPAC’s work on behalf of the U.S.-Israel relationship. Biden has had close relationships with both J Street and AIPAC for years, despite the rivalry between the two organizations.
During his years as Barack Obama’s Vice President, Biden spoke several times at the annual conferences of both organizations. This was part of a broader role he had in the Obama administration with regards to Israel – he was sent to the country on several occasions to represent the administration, whether it was in order to defuse political tensions between the countries in 2010, or to attend the funeral of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2014.
Jeremy Ben Ami, J Street’s president, explained on Friday why the group decided to endorse Biden, who has recently become the prospective Democratic presidential nominee, after all other candidates ended their campaigns. “At a time when the threats to our core values both at home and abroad have never been more serious, all of us in the pro-Israel, pro-peace community know that the path to a better future begins with defeating Donald Trump at the polls,” Ben Ami stated.
“To help achieve that pivotal goal, we’re thrilled to endorse Vice President Biden — a long-time friend of J Street who truly understands the need for a bold new era of American foreign policy rooted in principled, proactive diplomacy.” J Street did not endorse Biden during the Democratic primary, and also did not endorse any other candidate. On Tuesday, Biden was also endorsed by Obama, who had waited for the primary to effectively be over, and then lauded his former VP for his leadership, vision and values. Elizabeth Warren also threw her support behind Biden on Wednesday.
The J Street endorsement further stated that “Biden has long championed many of J Street’s most important priorities, including a just and peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He helped spearhead overwhelming support for Israel’s security alongside clear opposition to settlement expansion, creeping annexation and other measures that undermined the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. The vice president also promoted strong diplomacy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon without launching a disastrous new war of choice in the Middle East.”
Biden in reply said that he was “honored” to have the group’s endorsement and that he shares J Street’s “commitment to creating a future of peace and opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian children alike. That’s what we have to keep working toward—and what I’ll do as President with J Street’s support.”
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His response, which came just hours after J Street announced its endorsement, showed that Biden was not concerned about embracing a group that right-wing and center-right Jewish organizations have tried over the years to portray as extreme and not supportive of Israel. Biden, at the same time, has also rejected pressures from the left to boycott AIPAC, unlike his main rival in the primary, Senator Bernie Sanders.
While Sanders refused to appear before AIPAC’s conference this year and accused the organization of promoting bigotry, Biden didn’t physically attend the conference mostly for technical reasons (the event took place right before the Super Tuesday primary vote), and he sent in a video message that was supportive of AIPAC’s work.
Biden’s ability to maintain strong relationships with both AIPAC and J Street served him well during his years in the Obama White House, as the divisions within the American Jewish community over Israel-related policy grew wider. Now it will be his challenge to maintain those relationships through the remainder of the election season and use them to increase his level of support in the Jewish community.