WASHINGTON--Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has decided not to accept an invitation from the leftist Jewish lobbying group J Street to attend its first national conference in Washington next week.
The Israeli embassy will instead send a staff member to monitor the conference and report on the activities.
J Street was established to counter the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the most powerful pro-Israel group in Washington.
Israel's embassy released a statement saying, "In response to the question about J Street's invitation to participate in its conference, the Embassy of Israel has been privately communicating its concerns over certain policies of the organization that may impair the interests of Israel."
The group has been highly critical of Israel's military campaign in Gaza last December and January, supports a total freeze on Jewish building in Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria, and has refused to support tough sanctions against Iran which were promoted by the Israeli government.
The Obama Administration is sending a top level official, National Security Advisor James Jones, to the conference.
J Street leaders dropped a planned poetry session from the conference after bloggers drew attention to the writings of scheduled participant, activist Josh Healey.
He has compared Guantanamo prison to Auschwitz, and wrote "Anne Frank is Matthew Shepard," comparing the teenage girl who died in the Holocaust to the young homosexual man murdered in Wyoming in 1998.
Sources: The Jerusalem Post, Ha'aretz