A senior Israeli diplomat told a silent J Street audience Monday that unlike Americans, Israelis face life and death decisions every day.
Baruch Binah, Deputy Chief of Israel’s Mission in Washington, spoke to the annual J Street conference after a government policy of shunning the group, which has been a constant critic of the Netanyahu government and which promotes “engagement” with Hamas and Iran.
His appearance brought a round of applause, but the crowd quickly sank into silence after Binah began to speak. “Unlike your secure existence at these happy shores, at our borders there are missiles and mayhem,” Binah told an unresponsive crowd.
“Unlike you, sometimes we have to make decisions of life and death. We welcome your opinion, but we must pay the ultimate price. We have no margins of error. We need you to stand with us."
Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who faces a series of indictments and court hearings on charges of bribery and abusing public trust, was the star speaker and reiterated his belief that Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is a “peace partner” for Israel.
J Street’s choice of Olmert to deliver the keynote address was roundly criticized in an article in the left-wing Forward, not because of Olmert’s legal scandals but because he “orchestrated the punishing siege on Gaza, launched two wars, killing 2,500 Lebanese and Palestinians and pulverizing their infrastructure.”
Nicolas Pelham, a journalist for The Economist, also noted that J Street’s invitation to Olmert gave a platform to “a man indicted for corruption” and who “has not come to J Street to promote the cause of peace. More likely, he has come to whitewash his reputation and airbrush his past. Israel’s public will see through the charade, even if J Street, in a far-off fantasyland, cheers.”