At the end of the summer Washington will lend its most far-reaching support yet to J Street with Vice President Joe Biden scheduled to give the keynote and Ambassador Martin Indyk to give an address.
Biden is the highest-ranking U.S. official to speak at the annual conference, taking place September 28th-October 1st in Washington DC. Indyk used to hold that title. He closed the first conference in 2009 where he mused about his “aliyah to Washington” inspired by a volunteer stint in Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
I’m not going to be in town, but if I were I’d go to just about every session. My picks: +972’s Noam Sheizaf and Terrestrial Jerusalem’s Danny Seidemann on Jerusalem and the future of two-states, director of and the Gatekeepers Dror Moreh will screen his film and give a Q&A.
Of course because this is J Street there is a political bottom line. The lobby group’s schedule is pushing hard groups that back Kerry’s efforts to sustain nine months of direct peace talks. And some of those groups, like the rightist Israeli political party Shas are hostile to Palestinian self-determination—at least a self-determination that is actually based on the June 1967 lines with East Jerusalem as the capital.
See the full schedule here.
Phil Weiss adds:
Jeffrey Goldberg suggests that J Street is taking up AIPAC’s traditional ground in Washington, and that Biden is showing up so as to line up money for a possible presidential run. Goldberg, who has pooh-poohed the power of the Israel lobby in the past, writes at Bloomberg, “J Street learns to play the Washington money game,” and says that Biden is angling for the support of Louis Susman, former ambassador and Obama warchest-handler.
Two officials told me that the decision to dispatch Biden to J Street was made as a personal favor to Louis Susman, one of Obama’s chief campaign-contribution bundlers, who was appointed ambassador to the U.K. in 2009 partly as payback for his fundraising. Susman, who left the ambassadorship in April, is also close to Biden; he hosted the vice president and his family for Thanksgiving last year.
Susman joined the board of J Street shortly after returning from London and, according to people I spoke to, was asked by J Street’s founder and president, Jeremy Ben-Ami, to recruit top-tier administration officials for his conference, something Ben-Ami’s lower-wattage board hadn’t previously been able to do. Biden, who is contemplating a run for president and could use a master bundler like Susman, was said to be eager to participate…
Biden will deliver an anodyne pro-Israel speech to J Street, endorsing new peace efforts and noting (as Obama has many times) that Israel’s settlement policy is distinctly unhelpful, but mainly offering a vigorous defense of Israel’s right to exist and an enthusiastic endorsement of a close U.S.-Israel relationship and a two-state solution. A candidate thinking about running for president will not stray far from these basic points.
…What will be satisfying to J Street’s members is the knowledge that the group has finally begun to figure out how to play the Washington game the way Aipac, and all effective lobbying groups, play the Washington game: by lining up the money men.
Susman was vital to John Kerry’s run in 2004.