Democratic presidential candidates at debate in Ohio
Democratic presidential candidates at debate in Ohio Reuters

J Street, the left-wing Jewish Middle East policy group, is making conditioning U.S. aid to Israel a plank ahead of the 2020 presidential elections.

“Our aid is not intended to be a blank check,” Jeremy Ben-Ami, the group’s president, said Sunday evening, at the group’s annual conference, ahead of the first appearance at the conference of a Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

Ben-Ami called on candidates to reverse Trump administration policies that have favored Israel over the Palestinian Authority and announced that the organization’s student wing, J Street U, launched a campaign to press the Democratic Party to include in its platform a call on Israel to end its presence in Judea and Samaria.

Two former Obama administration National Security Council officials, Ben Rhodes and Tommy Vietor, who now run a podcast, pressed Klobuchar on the aid issue.

Klobuchar, who is close to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, said it was “not a good idea to negotiate these things” in public, but later indicated she would oppose aid cuts, in part because she believed President Donald Trump had made the region more dangerous for Israel by pulling the United States back from the Middle East.

Trump in recent weeks ordered U.S. troops out of Syria and gave Turkey a green light to invade its north, putting at risk Kurds who have been allied to the United States.

“That is why I am so wedded right now to make sure we are actually continuing the aid,” Klobuchar said.

Rhodes and Vietor will be interviewing another four of the Democratic candidates throughout the conference: Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; former Housing secretary Julian Castro; Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont; and Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado.