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WH Visitor Logs Suggest J Street Contributed To U.S.-Israel Diplomatic Crisis (PJM Exclusive)

J Street representatives met with the Obama administration frequently during the flare-up resulting from Joe Biden's visit to Israel. (Update: Don't miss Bill Whittle's new interview with Ben-David on PJTV.com.)

by
Lenny Ben-David

Bio

August 22, 2010 - 12:00 am

According to newly released White House visitor logs, J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, and vice president of policy and strategy, Hadar Susskind, came to the White House to meet with officials in the White House Office of Public Engagement, headed by Obama’s close friend and adviser Valerie Jarrett.

On March 11, and then again on March 12, the logs show Ben-Ami set a meeting for March 15 in the Old Executive Office Building with Danielle Borrin, who served on the vice president’s staff and in Jarrett’s office. On March 17, another meeting was set in the West Wing, the White House’s inner sanctum, for the next day with Tina Tchen, Jarrett’s principle deputy and director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.

(See below: Tchen plays a key role in the liaison between the White House and J Street and the Arab lobby.)

On March 15, the day it met with Borrin, J Street issued a statement on the “escalation of U.S.-Israel tensions” warning that Israel’s “provocative actions undermine the peace process” and weaken the American attempts “to build a broad international coalition to address the Iranian nuclear program.” Parroting Emanuel’s strategy for crisis management, the J Street memo declared:

Bold American leadership is needed now to turn this crisis into a real opportunity to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The memo, in effect, called for an imposed American solution:

We urge the United States to take this opportunity to suggest parameters to the parties for resuming negotiations — basing borders on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps, with the Palestinian state demilitarized and on territory equivalent to 100% of the area encompassed by the pre-1967 Armistice lines.

On March 16, J Street sent out an action alert to its members, warning:

Some hawkish pro-Israel activists are seizing the opportunity to attack the Obama Administration over Israel, urging the Administration to slow down and back off. The pro-Israel, pro-peace movement is stepping up strong … urging the Administration to turn this crisis into an opportunity for progress on two states.

Four days after meeting with Tchen, J Street published an advertisement in the New York Times to push for White House activism:

It’s time for the Obama administration to seize the opportunity for bold leadership — putting concrete plans for a two-state solution on the table with the sustained commitment of the United States behind them. It’s time for the Palestinians to end incitement to violence. It’s time for Israel to stop allowing extremist settlers and their sympathizers to endanger not only the friendship of the United States, but also the very future of Israel.

I believe the March 15 Roger Cohen column in the Times likely also came as a result of White House encouragement. A long-time Axelrod acquaintance confessed to me last year:

I think I made a mistake about a year ago in introducing Roger Cohen to Axelrod electronically. Axe never writes me back, and Cohen will never tell, but, I think Cohen is floating the Administration policies ever since then.

On March 12, J Street founder Daniel Levy published in the Guardian a self-serving article about:

[The Jewish diaspora’s determination] to reclaim a more moderate and progressive vision of what it means to be pro-Israel and to apply Jewish ethics and Jewish values, that helped guide civil rights struggles in the past, to contemporary Israeli reality. Such efforts are gaining ground — notably the emergence of J Street in America.

Levy — a member of the JournoList — wrote the first of a slew of critical pieces that week by J Street advocates and JournoList members, including Time’s Joe Klein, Andrew Sullivan, Spencer Ackerman, and Eric Alterman.

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