Word is beginning to leak out about the imminent launch of J Street, the new liberal Israel lobby being founded by Jeremy Ben Ami and Daniel Levy. I reported on Gershom Gorenberg’s essay in Prospect Magazine yesterday. Today brings James Besser’s story in Jewish Week which provides a few more details:
…The new project kicks off with a hush-hush fundraiser next Monday hosted by former Clinton administration official Jeremy Ben Ami and Daniel Levy, director of the Prospects for Peace Initiative of the Century Foundation. The group will be publicly launched around the middle of April; organizers said they will not speak publicly about the group until then.
“For too long, the loudest American voices in political and policy debates have been those on the far right — often Republican neoconservatives or extreme Christian Zionists,” according to the invitation. “J Street aims to change that. We are the first and only lobby and PAC (political action committee) dedicated to ensuring Israel’s security, changing the direction of American policy in the Middle East and opening up American political debate about Israel and the Middle East.”
While sources say the structure and initial goals of the new group are still in flux, it is expected to raise money for congressional candidates who advocate a stronger U.S. leadership role in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and multilateral solutions to the region’s problems.
The group will be headed by Ben-Ami, who served as deputy domestic policy adviser in the Clinton administration and later as a media consultant. Ben-Ami has worked with several Jewish peace groups, including the Center for Middle East Peace and the Geneva Initiative-North America.
Unlike similar attempts in the past the board of directors of J Street seems to have the Jewish “gravitas” and fundraising clout to make it a success. It includes leaders of the three main liberal Jewish peace groups (APN, Brit Tzedek and IPF), major Democratic fundraisers, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, and perhaps most importantly, Mort Halperin, George Soros’ major domo. I’m hoping that Halperin’s participation implies at least Soros’ tacit support for the group.
Keep your eyes peeled for attacks from the Jewish right which will come as sure as the spring rains in the Pacific Northwest.