Daily Israel Report

Will Olmert Drop J Street?

MK Otniel Schneller has called on former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to distance himself from the left-wing J Street group.
By Gabe Kahn.
First Publish: 3/13/2012, 6:08 PM

Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Flash 90

MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima) called on former prime minister and Kadima head Ehud Olmert to retract his endorsement of J Street.

"While over one million Israeli citizens have spent four days and four nights in bomb shelters, and do not go to work and school out of fear of the next siren... the terrorists firing rockets at them are not only supported by Iran and Hizbullah, but by the left-wing American Jewish organization J Street," Schneller said in remarks to the Knesset on Tuesday.

Schneller's call for Olmert to distance himself from J Street came in response to the organization's allegation that Israel's retaliatory strikes had disproportionately harmed civilians.

"J Street is deeply concerned about the most recent spate of violence between the Israel Defense Forces and militants in Gaza, which, in three days, has already resulted in over one hundred rockets fired on Israeli cities and towns and airstrikes on Gaza that have killed over a dozen Palestinian civilians," the group wrote on its website on Monday.

At that stage of hostilities it was widely reported – even in the Arab press which is normally hostile to Israel – that IDF strikes had been precise and focused on terrorists launching rockets.

Voice of America reported on Monday, "Sixteen Palestinian militants and two civilians have been killed since violence began on Friday, while Israel has been battered by more than 120 rockets."

The number of civilian casualties provided by J Street – 12 – was identical to claims on Monday by the Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades Information Office, which is the armed wing of the Islamic Jihad, responsible for much of the rocket fire targeting Israel.

The IDF reported that civilian casualties stemmed from Gaza terror groups using civilians as "human shields" and launching attacks from densely populated areas. By the end of hostilities late on Tuesday, 200 rockets had been fired at Israel and 27 Gazans had been killed in IAF strikes – 25 of them terrorists.

On Tuesday, under intense criticism, J Street deleted both the reference to civilian casualties and rocket fire on Israel from their website.

Schneller attacked the organization and those in Israel who support it, "J Street's statement was anti-Israel and amoral – that should constitute a proper deterrence for politicians and public figures of the Israeli left – who have supported and identified with this group in the past."

"It was recently reported that Mr. Ehud Olmert accepted this organization's invitation to be guest of honor and keynote speaker at J Street's annual conference, to be held later this month. I call on Mr. Olmert to disavow this organization," Schneller said.

Olmert – who was forced to resign as prime minister in 2009 amid a looming cloud of criminal indictments for bribery and corruption – was responsible for authorizing the last IDF ground incursion into Gaza, Operation Cast Lead.

"We've said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a severe and disproportionate Israeli response to the fire on the citizens of Israel and its security forces," Olmert said at the time.