As Republicans failed to capture the White House and lost Senate and House seats Tuesday, a pro-Palestinian lobbying organization claimed victory in 70 of the 71 endorsements it made this campaign season.
J Street, a liberal nonprofit describing itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” featured White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett as a key speaker during its March policy conference in Washington.
Among other speakers, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, the leader of a Palestinian nationalist party and cousin of an imprisoned Palestinian terror leader, told the J Street conference that blame for imminent failure of a two-state solution will rest squarely on the shoulders of Israel.
Today, J Street executive director Jeremy Ben-Ami sent an email to supporters with the subject line “ASTOUNDING.”
All 49 House incumbents endorsed by the PAC were re-elected. All seven of the J Street Senate candidates were elected, including Democrats Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, and Tim Kaine in Virginia.
J Street’s challengers and candidates for open seats were elected in 13 out of 15 races. Ben-Ami noted that the PAC adds one more and gets to its touted victory total if Ami Bera holds on to his razor-thin lead over Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.).
Lungren is not conceding as Bera holds a 184-vote lead with tens of thousands of absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted.
J Street also cheered the losses of “One-State Caucus” Reps. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), Allen West (R-Fla.), Bobby Schilling (R-Ill.), Frank Guinta (R-N.H.), and Ann Marie Buerkle (R-N.Y.). All were freshman reps who came to power in the GOP’s 2010 midterm Tea Party-driven rout.
West has launched a legal challenge of Democrat Patrick Murphy’s 2,456-vote lead. The congressman today asked a judge to impound ballots and voting machines, and his campaign called for a recount while alleging polling irregularities.
The lobbying group defines this “caucus” as “members of Congress who put Israel’s democracy and Jewish character at risk by promoting policies—such as annexation of the West Bank—that are at odds with long standing bipartisan support for a two-state solution.”
“This is an incredible victory – one that is part of transforming the political atmosphere around Israel in the U.S. that has blocked meaningful American efforts to achieve a two-state solution for decades,” Ben-Ami said.
He declared that “the campaign to sow fear and doubt among Jewish voters on Israel in an effort to defeat President Obama failed.”
There were no Republicans or independents on J Street’s endorsement list.
Tellingly, J Street also did not endorse either Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) or House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-Calif.). Both are strong pro-Israel members, and Sherman defeated Berman in a redistricting race yesterday.
The PAC’s victory lap comes at a critical time as Israel is faced with the possibility of having to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities — a prospect that was branded as needless warmongering at the spring conference.
Obama also has vowed to push a Mideast peace deal in his second term, which is bound to come with more pressure on Jerusalem to make concessions.
AIPAC, whose conference packed the DC convention center just weeks before J Street’s much smaller gathering, generically applauded in a statement “the election yesterday of a solidly pro-Israel Congress.”
“While there has been a very high turnover of members of the Senate and the House over the past few election cycles, there remains an extraordinary continuity of unwavering solidarity with Israel by both incumbents and challengers,” the American Israel Public Affairs Committee stated. “Virtually all the candidates who were elected issued position papers and statements expressing their belief that Israel is an invaluable ally of America.”
Despite the losses of strong pro-Israel candidates, Mitt Romney still fared far better with Jewish voters than Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) did in 2008.
In CNN exiting polling, Jewish voters went 69 percent for Obama and 30 percent for Romney. This is close to the Republican Jewish Coalition figures from its own exiting polling, which saw the Jewish vote for the GOP candidate jump 10 points since the last election.
“The results demonstrate that President Barack Obama and the Democrats saw a significant erosion of support from 2008, while Republicans continued their trend of the last several decades of making inroads in the Jewish community,” said Matt Brooks, executive director of the RJC.
Israeli leaders sent congratulatory messages to President Obama on his re-election, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring “the strategic alliance between Israel and the US is stronger than ever.” Netanayhu also sat down with U.S. Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro this afternoon.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas likewise sent congratulations to Obama, while chief PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat called on Obama to push for 1967 borders, stop West Bank settlements “immediately,” and back the Palestinian bid for non-member status at the United Nations.
Hamas told Agence France-Presse that the group is “waiting to see if there will be a positive change in Obama’s policy or not.”
“We hope that Obama commits to legitimate Palestinian rights and stops his policy of double standards and bias towards Israel,” said spokesman Taher al-Nunu.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said today “any evaluation of the promise of change will be based on the actual policy and performance of U.S. officials.”
“The truth is that people in the Muslim world and Middle East are still waiting for the realization of the U.S. president’s promises,” Mehmanparast said.