Are liberal Democrats starting to be wary of the siren calls of J Street? This story from Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent shows that at least one congressional candidate has figured out that associating with the far-Left lobby can be dangerous for his political health.
The Exponent’s Bryan Schwartzman reports that Doug Pike, one of the contenders for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania’s 6th congressional district, has “asked J Street officials this week to remove him from its list of 41 endorsed candidates, and said he’s planning to return some $6,000 donated via the group.” It appears that Pike, who is fighting for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Jim Gerlach, has gotten the message from voters and contributors that aligning himself with J Street is not the path to the hearts or the wallets of pro-Israel Democrats.
Pike, the son of Otis Pike, a onetime New York congressman, is a former Philadelphia Inquirer editorial writer and is locked in a tough fight against Manan Trivedi, a physician and Iraq-war veteran who has got the endorsement of two key Democratic committees in the district, which stretches across three suburban counties in the western suburbs of Philadelphia. Schwartzman says that one pro-Israel fundraiser claims “a number of potential contributors walked away from Pike after the J Street endorsement became known, and after Gerlach — considered a strong Israel backer — decided not to run for governor.”
Pike told the Exponent that “when he first sought J Street’s endorsement back in September, he had underestimated his policy differences with the group.” Of special interest, in the context of this past week’s dispute between the Obama administration and Israel, is that Pike was “troubled” by J Street’s recent stance that Israel halt construction in eastern Jerusalem because J Street has backed Obama against Netanyahu on the issue of plans to build Jewish homes in an eastern Jerusalem neighborhood. “People simply assumed when they heard that I was endorsed by J Street that I agreed with them on everything,” said Pike. “The endorsement was an impediment to my being able to explain my convictions about Israel’s security.”
Pike’s attempt to extricate himself from J Street’s death grip may or may not save his candidacy, but it ought to serve as a warning to other Democrats who assume that the group’s claim that it is within the mainstream is true. J Street representatives and other left-wingers have asserted that Obama’s 2008 victory — and his huge share of the Jewish vote — proved that mainstream pro-Israel groups like AIPAC no longer represented the community’s view. But, as Pike has found out, most rank-and-file Jewish Democrats, even those who call themselves liberals, do not support putting pressure on Israel to make more concessions to the Palestinians and are appalled by the administration’s attack on Jewish rights in Jerusalem.
So is the White House, which has become even more brazen in its open contempt for the Israeli government, capable of understanding what Doug Pike has now discovered — that sooner or later, its attitude toward Israel, which is inspired in part by its misconception that J Street is representative of mainstream Jewish opinion, may be a huge political mistake?