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J Street’s New Senate Ally

As Dianne Feinstein accepts its endorsement, the liberal Israel advocacy group gets the gravitas it craves

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Sen. Dianne Feinsten talks with reporters at the U.S. Capitol on May 8, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/AFP/Getty Images)
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Heads Up

J Street chief Jeremy Ben-Ami calls the plays for the first self-confident alternative Jewish establishment

Pity California. The country’s most populous state, perpetually an afterthought in presidential primary politics, routinely compensates by offering up electoral sideshows like the 2003 gubernatorial recall, which showcased a field of 135 candidates including a porn star named Angelyne and the porn magnate Larry Flynt. That snap election ultimately gave Arnold Schwarzenegger—previously known as Mr. Olympia, Conan the Barbarian, and the Terminator—his most prized title: governor.

This year, 23 neophytes have paid $3,480 each for the opportunity to challenge incumbent Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the doyenne of Congress’ Jewish contingent, who has held the seat since 1992. Under new rules, the top two vote-getters in today’s primary will proceed to the general election in November—regardless of party registration. With the opposition candidates all polling below 5 percent, that opens up a window of opportunity for long-shot gadflies to make it to the general election ballot.

The list includes Orly Taitz, the Soviet Jewish émigré who styles herself the queen of the birther movement, and Nachum Shifren, formerly known as Norm, a native Malibu surf rat and Hasidic rabbi who, according to London’s Jewish Chronicle, once worked as a driver for the extremist leader Meir Kahane and more recently traveled to Britain to rally with the English Defence League, a nationalist, anti-Islam group. “Many of the other candidates,” said Jack Pitney, a political-science professor at Claremont McKenna College, “are an organic mix of nuts and vegetables.”

The likelihood that Feinstein will actually be unseated is accordingly negligible. She is one of the most popular politicians in the state, and despite being the victim of a $4.5 million campaign-funds embezzlement scam, she holds a cash advantage of $2.5 million over the official candidate of the state Republican Party, an autism activist named Elizabeth Emken. All of which explains why the announcement late last week that Feinstein had accepted the endorsement of the left-wing Israel advocacy group J Street was met not with the vitriol many pro-Israel groups heaped on Democrat Joe Sestak, J Street’s candidate in Pennsylvania’s 2010 Senate race, but with silence.

For J Street, Feinstein was a huge get. Aside from being a Democratic Party heavyweight, Feinstein is chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee and an increasingly important proxy for the Obama Administration on the Iranian nuclear threat—the issue that is animating current Washington debate about Israel. J Street, which launched in 2008 with ambitions to act as a progressive counterweight to the behemoth American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has struggled to find entree with Congress’ senior players. Feinstein lends them much-needed gravitas. “J Street is establishing itself as an element of the mainstream Jewish community,” said J Street’s head, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

For Feinstein, though, the upside is less clear. While the senator may have nothing to fear from courting a potentially controversial ally, she almost certainly doesn’t need the $100,000 that J Street estimates it will raise for her this year. She may benefit from raising her appeal among staunchly liberal partisans of California’s junior senator, Barbara Boxer, another Jewish Democrat from Northern California who is seen as energetically liberal where Feinstein is known for her measured centrism.

Feinstein, who supported the Iraq War in 2002, has been firmly in step with the White House—and with her old Senate pal Secretary of State Hillary Clinton—in pushing Israel toward negotiations with the Palestinians and in slowing the rush to war with Iran. “It’s all about how this is viewed in D.C., not in California,” said Thad Kousser, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego. “This is someone who sees herself as a stateswoman planting her flag in the foreign policy terrain.” And, perhaps, a way to thumb her nose at AIPAC, which has consistently supported a muscular approach toward Iran. (Calls and emails to AIPAC’s current spokesman, Adam Harris, were not returned.)

J Street made its approach in April, after Feinstein wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Chronicle defending Obama’s diplomatic approach toward Iran. “Her views were very close, if not identical, to J Street’s,” said Howard Dickstein, a board member of J Street’s political action committee and Sacramento lawyer who made his fortune representing Indian tribal gambling interests. “I don’t think she has to be fearful of any kind of retaliation or pushback.” Dickstein was joined in making the ask by J Street advisory board member Carol Winograd, a retired Stanford University professor of medicine and biology whose husband, Terry, served as a Ph.D. adviser to Google co-founder Larry Page. (Together, the Winograds have given more than $600,000 to Democratic causes in the past three cycles.)

Feinstein is only the second sitting senator to accept J Street’s endorsement; the other is Sen. Sherrod Brown, senior Democrat of Ohio. But accepting an endorsement is a long way from making a political marriage. “Perhaps if she were in a tight race things might be different, but politicians are not normally in the business of rejecting endorsements even if they’re from groups that are not necessarily the most popular on the planet,” said Gary Jacobson, a veteran political observer who is also a professor at UC San Diego. “You don’t have to endorse everything they say, you just say, ‘They’re part of my broad coalition.’ ”

And indeed Feinstein, a pro, has made sure to build in some daylight between her campaign and her new-found friends. Last week, Feinstein’s campaign adviser, Bill Carrick, told the New York Times the relationship was arm’s length at best. “We didn’t look at it as picking sides in the debate,” he said. “They wanted to endorse her and, basically, she said fine.”


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yevka says:

This is good news.

julis123 says:

For accuracy sake I would call it a “self-declared Israel advocacy group”. I’m sure if you told most Israelis what J Street actually proposes, they would ask them to advocate for another country and let the Israelis themselves decide what is best for them.

Yephora says:

What actually is this J-Street that supports Dianne Feinstein? No one puts it more succinctly than Feinstein’s senate opponent, Dr. Orly Taitz:

“J-street is a far left organization which advocates cutting up Jerusalem and giving a big part of Jerusalem to Palestinians, dismantling all of the Jewish settlements and towns in Judea and Samaria. They are more radical than many Palestinians. The fact that Feinstein accepted their endorsement speaks volumes. Feinstein is the chair of the Senate Intelligence committee. Endorsing such radical views will not promote peace and doesn’t mesh with her position as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.”

Orly Taitz adamantly opposes the J-Street/Feinstein position. 

Therefore between the two, Feinstein and Taitz, which candidate do you, dear reader, think will be better for the Jews?

AIPAC all the way because J-Street ignores Arab terrorism and genocidal lust and thus will always be sidelined

Its good for J-Street but not as much for Dianne

Afrayedknot says:

Kudos to Senator Feinstein – unlike her colleagues, she comes right out and admits she’s a political whore.

Wow, this type of writing is
another piece of evidence that Tablet has made the sharp right curve.
(Does anyone else remember the Forward under Seth Lipsky’s direction?)
So disappointing. Three paragraphs making fun of CA politics before
bringing in the headline that Feinstein accepts J Streets endorsement.
Feinstein accepted the endorsement because J Street IS the sane moderate
center of American and Jewish opinion.

Yephora says:

Feinstein was silent when Barack Obama proposed a unilateral US nuclear disarmament by as much as 70%, which would reduce the number of the US nuclear war heads from 1330 to between 400-300. This does not help the US national security. Senator Feinstein had a duty to speak against this insanity, yet she chose to follow the party line, putting her allegiance to Obama over the allegiance to the people of the United States of America. She should be thrown out for that reason alone.

Yephora says:

The far, far left J-Street is neither sane nor moderate. It is rabidly anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian (Muslim).

Yes, I love Israel and work and pray for her flourishing.  I have never found a “rabidly anti-Israel” statement from a J Street spokesperson. Can you give me an example?

emunadate says:

I don’t believe Jews know who and what they are voting for…

PhillipNagle says:

J Street an organization financed by former Nazi stooge George Soros, is anything but pro Israel.  Basically they want Israel to agree to terms (calling it a peace treaty would be rediculous) that would eventually lead to Israel’s destruction.  Feinstein unfortunately has sold out to the Obama surrender plan. 

 How about when David Levy one of the heads of JStreet said Israel’s creation was a mistake..If you start your ideology that a nation has no right to exist you are many things, but pro that nation is not one of them.

 Darn, I was hoping for something worth talking about. You’ve given the tired Soros connection, and an article that says that Breitbart/Pollack  says (as if something credible could come from that source)……
It’s interesting to me that I met with an Israeli friend last week who criticized J Street, too, but because it is “essentially no different from AIPAC, just with a younger face.”
I don’t think you or she is correct, J Street supporters like myself believe that Israel will be more safe and secure with a recognized Palestinian State next door, and the sooner the better.

I may disagree with some of Feinstein’s positions (and often do), but Taitz is a nutjob, who pursued the birther agenda, which goes along with the 9/11 and JFK conspiracy theories.

I don’t really have a problem with her accepting this endorsement. California is an expensive state in which to run a campaign.  Given a choice, I’ll go with someone endorsed by a group, with which I disagree, over a candidate who is certifiable.

 I think you are referring to Danial Levy:

Levy previously served as senior policy adviser to former Israeli Minister of Justice, Yossi Beilin,
from March 2000 to March 2001. In this capacity, he was responsible for
coordinating policy on various aspects of the ministerial portfolio,
including issues related to peace negotiations, the Palestinian minority
in Israel, civil and human rights, representing the minister on
governmental committees.

During the Ehud Barak government, he worked in the Prime Minister’s Office as special adviser and head of the Jerusalem Affairs unit under Minister Haim Ramon.

Levy was a member of the Israeli delegation to the Taba Summit with the Palestinians in January 2001, and of the negotiating team for the “Oslo 2″ Agreement from May to September 1995, under Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Levy never said the founding of Israel was a mistake, but here is a video in which he lists different persepctives on 1948, including what he views might be a Palestinian perspective, not his own.

Please read the comments, which include Ian Thal’s reasonable assessment:

b.) He is sketching out a number of different viewpoints.
c.) The idea that the Israel’s creation is “wrong” is clearly one
that he is attributing to Palestinians, not to himself. The view he is
representing as his own is “But in either of those outcomes we’re going
to live next door to each other [in a two state] or in a one state

Now I’m not sure if he really finds a “one state disposition” a
credible option– I certainly don’t, and judging by the literature,
neither does J Street.

Yephora says:

That’s brilliant, Clare. Put the Palestinian rocket launchers right next door to Israel rather than keeping them miles away. You J-Streeters sure do love Israel…. if you could have your way you’d love her to death.

Hershl says:

 “J Street is establishing itself as an element of the mainstream Jewish community,” said J Street’s head, Jeremy Ben-Ami.
In your dreams.

She is simply looking for support from Soros and a little J-Streets a** kissing goes a long way.

As someone who lived on the Upper West Side, was not only a member of the Democratic Club that Jeremi Ben Ami failed in as a “leader” and never got elected to public office AS I DID, let me say he is useless and how he has been able to “con” Diane Feinstein says a lot more about her lack of judgement and the nature of California’s and, let’s be honest, too much of in-love-with-Left-wing-politics crowd within Jewry. Friday night services in the Reform Movement after re-writing the Torah into sociological babble, changing the prayer book into a series of meditations Pagan Marcus Aurelius could have written or an Archbishop of Canterbury there is so little of Judaism in it, and altering Friday night services from 8:15 p.m. to “family dinners” at 6:15, the rich Reform Jews have created a Jewless religion that creates bums like Jeremy Ben Ami and now a deluded Diane Feinstein.

J-street’s ethos are persona non grata  in Israel, in effect there is no Israeli left anymore, the majority of the population save for a few Haaretz staffers are solidly center-right to right. Why is this? it’s a simple answer, reality, the reality of observing the real time effects of withdrawal from previously held areas under the guise of “peace”. The disengagement from Gaza has created a  terrorist mini state and wrought untold mental trauma that will last for years upon Israeli children unlucky enough to live near the border. The disengagement from Lebanon has created a hostile terrorist state ready at a moments whim from it’s Iranian masters to launch tens of thousands of rockets.  This does not even take into consideration the looming disaster that were the camp david accords and the ascendance of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

   Yes the left is dead and buried as a political entity in Israel. So who are these self-confessed members of J-street? these supposed “supporters” of Israel who are funded by the Saudi govt, the nazi collaborator George Soros who wishes to see Israel dismantled, and various factions of far left special interests who have made bashing Israel their favorite hobby horse,  not to mention various “palestinian” groups . The only Jews who would support such an entity against the wishes of the very people they would claim to “represent” would have to be delusional narcissists of the highest order, adhering to a left-wing dogma so irrational that even wholesale destruction of their fellow coreligionists  would be an acceptable card to be played on their game of chance.   Judenrats and Kapos for a new generation.

yevka says:

 I think you’re trying to say it’s the AIPAC way or the highway…how democratic of you.

yevka says:

Your comment is really out there on the the far fringe.

 OK, Daniel not is an article  about the incident…

Jstreet is not pro-israel it is pro Jews capitulating to those who think that Israel has no right to exist and those who call for genocide against the Jewish people. It is an organization that blames Jews for antisemitism and Jew-hatred instead of the perpetrators of this evil. It is a typical Leftists vision of the world. Where Jews are always wrong, the US is always wrong and the Islamists hatred and Jew-hatred of the Moslem world is a modern manifestation which it is not. (Try reading some Bernard Lewis, his latest memoir will give you a good understanding of reality)

Try reading Robert Wistrich’s new book From Ambivalence to Betrayal..the Left, the Jews and Israel. Instead of trying ot placate those who will never see you as their equal it is time for some self-respect.

You can keep fooling yourself all you want did the Jews who
walked into gas chambers refused to accept the truth until it was too

Yes, that unilateral Israeli exit from Gaza did so much to promote peace between the Palestinians and the Jews. Because there are no rocket launchings from Hamas controlled Gaza..(at count this year alone it was 260)the duly elected representatives of the Palestinian people (BTW its not about the blockade. They are blockaded as much if not more from Egypt and I dont’t see one rocket being launched in that direction. Also the blockade is perfectly legal.) Guess what if there were no attemtps at murdering Jews there would be no blockade. In fact just yesteray Hamas reaffirmed their platform that their goal is genocide against all Jews worldwide.  You need to read a good history book about the history of Hamas and the Moslem Brotherhood..Remember Hamas is an offshoot of the MB which was created in the 1920s, called for genocide against the Jews, promoted The Protocals of the Elders of Zion and sided with Hitler in WW2.All of which Hamas outlines in its webpages and uses as it raison d’etre.

Also all the unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon elicited was more rockets and Hezbollah in control. A foothold for Iran in the Levant and control of a strategic area.

 Again its not about blockades, or a Palestinian State, which there could
have  been considering there have been 3 chances of creating a state,
all of which the Palestinians rejected. The PA has also already said that they would never agree to recognize Israel as a Jewish State, would insist of the Right of return, (which would ultimately destroy Israel) and insist on Israel going back to Auschwitz borders (Eban’s quote not mine), that Israel has to give up Jerusalem..yes lets let the Moslems once again control and desecrate our holy places like they did between 1948 and 1967. (I guess you never heard about how they are desecrating our sites now or trying to claim them as Moslem only..check out UNESCO sites and you can see that suddenly Jewish religious sites in the West Bank areas that have been turned over to the PA are now Moslem and have no Jewish significance whatsoever) They also insist that this is their final offer and that its not negotiable. Their goal is not peace, their goal is genocide. Its time you dealt with that reality.

JamesPhiladelphia says:

Yossi Beilin and Guideon Levy now in Haaretz, were aids to Shimon Peres for the Oslo Accords. After loosing their jobs they have become extremely anti-Israel. The enemies of Israel just quote these two characters. Guideon Levy is also a contributor in Al Arabiya, a Saudi newspaper. The only surprise is why the Israeli authorities have not prosecuted these two specimens for sedition. For Pete’s sake the Arabs are in a state of war with Israel. Yossi and Gideon are just a pair of traitors.

And J Street is no friend of Israel. J Street is a failure, I am happy to announce. Just another Tikkun magazine of lecherous Michael Lerner. They are so self hatred that stink.

elixelx says:

You mean as opposed to the J-Street way or the highway?
If I had my druthers, which I do, I would much rather the broad bright-lit boulevard of AIPAC than the narrow-minded, obfuscatory cul-de-sac that is J-Street!
You really should examine your druthers, brother Eyal. You’ll find them somewhat below your waist, between your legs…that’s if you have any druthers at all!

She is just another sell out “Jew” , looking for support.  

Dunno says:

Feinstein is a diehard liberal from San Francisco. End of story.

Sarah Whinaker says:

Feinstein is a big disappointment, to associate with the J Street. They are a wolf in she eps clothing. How can she do this? Why did she do this, just for a paltry campaign contribution of $100,000- that is bubkas! She blew it with me and my friends. We will never support her after this display of solidarity with Israel’s foe.


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J Street’s New Senate Ally

As Dianne Feinstein accepts its endorsement, the liberal Israel advocacy group gets the gravitas it craves

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