In a February 16, 2010 address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon inadvertently revealed his government’s core problem with the new American lobbying organization J Street.
Ayalon and other members of the Israeli government boycotted a J Street delegation shepherding members of the US Congress through Israel this week. Ayalon strongly condemned J Street: “They don’t present themselves as what they really are. They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.” J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami attributes this “spat” to an “inability of some in Israel and in the US to distinguish between criticism or disagreement with Israeli policy and outright hostility to the state itself.” J Street positions itself as a “pro-peace” and “pro-Israel” alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
However the Israeli government’s core problem with J-Street is far more profound. J Street’s main competition, AIPAC, was actually created by a former employee of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Isaiah L. Kenen, who set the existing standard for coordinating AIPAC’s lobbying with the needs of the Israeli government while repeatedly dodging DOJ foreign agent registration orders. The Conference of Presidents, which organizes AIPAC’s executive committee, actually works out of the same New York office as the World Zionist Organization – American Section (which itself is a shell corporation set up in the US after the Jewish Agency’s American Section, another quasi arm of the Israeli government, was shut down as a foreign agent in the early 1970’s ).
J Street’s biggest problem is what they really are not—unregistered foreign agents of the Israeli government. Until J-Street starts violating the spirit (and letter) of the 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act like the competition, it is unlikely to get any love from the Israeli government.