The leftist Jewish-American “J Street” lobbying group has taken credit for the controversial confirmation of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
In a week that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, AIPAC held its annual star-studded conference, J Street claimed Hagel’s appointment to be a sign of its own growing influence.
The organization’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, said that he immediately called Hagel back in December, as soon as he heard the former GOP Senator had been tapped by President Barack Obama to become the secretary of defense.
A former Hagel staff member who helped during the confirmation process, Lou Ann Linehan, also acknowledged to reporters the assistance rendered by J Street. “From the very first, they were always helpful with getting the facts. Just facts,” she said.
But J Street has far to go before the group approaches AIPAC’s league, say analysts, pointing to the massive 10,000 people who attended last week’s conference, including dozens of politicians. AIPAC has existed in Washington for at least 60 years.
J Street, which describes itself as “pro Israel, pro peace,” was unable to convince Israel’s Ambassador Michael Oren to speak for the group’s inaugural 2009 conference. In 2010 a number of U.S. Jewish lawmakers also turned down invitations for the group’s backing, citing its anti-Israel positions.
Last year J Street successfully opposed efforts to close the Washington office of the Palestinian Authority following its successful bid for upgraded status as a non member observer state at the United Nations. The move directly violated the internationally-recognized Oslo Accords and granted de facto recognition of the entity as a sovereign nation, circumventing the mandate to negotiate final status issues with Israel such as borders and allocation of land.