J Street teamed up with the National Iranian American Council to try to block Dennis Ross’s appointment as Iran envoy, a position from which Ross was subsequently removed in favor of NIAC advisory board member John Limbert. The left-wing lobby also coordinated with NIAC to loosen the Iranian-sanctions regime, a regime Ross was prominent in advocating and building. J Street insists on linkage between Israeli-Arab talks and Iran, a stance Ross has vociferously opposed. He agrees with the organization about almost nothing substantive when it comes to securing peace and stability in the Middle East.
Dennis Ross, the senior adviser to President Obama on Middle East issues, will address this year’s J Street conference. Ross, seen as an administration hard-liner on Iran and as arguing for greater consideration of Israel’s needs in peace negotiations, would be a coup for the group, which consistently has come under fire from the right and from some Democrats for not being sufficiently pro-Israel. White House officials confirmed J Street’s announcement. The group, which describes itself as “pro-Israel and pro-peace,” also said that Michael Oren, the Israeli ambassador to Washington, would not participate or allow embassy staff to participate in the Feb. 26-March 1 confab in Washington.
The Oren boycott thing is hardly a surprise, since the ambassador cut off ties with J Street after the group decided that “pro-Israel” meant “pushing the White House to allow a UN resolution condemning Israel.” Other well-known activities undertaken by the group: supporting Hamas during Cast Lead, working with the Soros-funding NIAC to undermine the Iranian-sanctions regime, taking money from Soros and lying about it, leading Richard Goldstone around D.C. and lying about it, cajoling Israeli politicians into lying to journalists on their behalf, setting up college outposts staffed with anti-Zionists, and being generally unpleasant to anyone who’s to the right of their anti-Zionist co-founder Daniel Levy.
There’s an argument to be made that dispatching Ross to J Street’s confab is a bad and unseemly idea, that it will look like the White House is forcing a respected diplomat to shuffle into a Canossa filled with feverish partisans, that it will feed the perception of a renewed White House public-relations offensive against the Israel, that it will reignite questions about whether the Obama administration owes favors to a lobby backed by obscure foreign donors.
Of course, the event could go the other way, with Ross having been dispatched to have a very public “frank conversation” with J Street partisans about the importance of the U.S.-Israeli alliance. That’d be kind of rude given the venue and the occasion, but the resulting dustup would build the administration’s pro-Israel credibility at a time when the U.S. is steadily losing reliable Middle East allies. Difficult to say.
In the meantime, if you want to get in on the betting pool of who gets more applause — Ross or the BDS advocate J Street is putting on a panel — feel free to drop me an e-mail. I was going to set up a parallel pool so people could bet on who’ll got more boos, but early wagers were too lopsided. Maybe an over/under on the number of boos Ross will get would have been more appropriate, but those things are so hard to measure.