An American Jewish lobby group is claiming that Israel's ambassador to the U.S. is avoiding an invitation to address its conference due to the group's liberal political leanings.
Ambassador Michael Oren has been invited to address the October 25 J Street conference that includes former liberal Israeli government ministers Shlomo Ben-Ami and Ami Ayalon as speakers. The group opposes Israeli government policies regarding the peace process and Iran.
According to reports, Oren has not yet accepted the invitation.
The 18-month-old group J Street describes itself as "pro-Israel, pro-peace movement." It says it represents Americans, "primarily but not exclusively Jewish" who support the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It also says it supports "diplomatic solutions over military ones, including in Iran."
But reports say that J Street has taken positions that contradict those of the Israeli government, including opposing the immediate imposition of intensified sanctions against Iran and backing President Barack Obama's call for a halt to settlement construction in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).
Some Israeli and American circles have also criticized the group for attacking other Jewish groups in a way that could be construed as divisive.
J Street executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, wrote an open letter published in Wednesday's Jerusalem Post, urging Oren to attend despite the differences in political agendas.
Ben-Ami was also quoted elsewhere saying that more than 20 liberal pro-Israel groups and students are expected to attend the conference.
He challenged Oren to become involved in what he called "progressive" lobbying for Israel instead of the more traditional stand taken by the largest pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
Israeli Embassy spokesman Yoni Peled was quoted as saying that the Embassy had notified J Street of its positions on state and security matters.
"While recognizing the need for a free and open debate on these issues, it is important to stress concern over certain policies that could impair Israel's interests," Peled said.
YNET, The Jerusalem Post