Nearly every David since the actual David has professed, usually loudly, to relish the challenge of playing the scrappy underdog. But, in truth, most Davids secretlyjust want to be a Goliath. To wit: J-Street, the dovish political-action group founded in 2008 to challenge the behemoth American Israel Political Action Committee announced this morning that they intend to invest about $600,000 in launching a field operation that they hope might rival AIPAC’s regional network of “citizen advocates.
Jeremy Ben Ami, J-Street’s executive director, told Tablet that the idea is to apply the strategies developed by liberal activist groups like MoveOn.org and Democracy for America to organize online supporters for real-world campaigns—letter-writing, meetings with local officials, teach-ins—on behalf of President Obama’s peace efforts in the Middle East. “I think we have two years for Obama to do this”—come up with a workable Middle East peace plan—“so this window over the next couple of years is essential,” Ben Ami said. “This is really a campaign atmosphere.” He said J-Street, which has doubled its budget in the last year to $3 million, intends to spend hire a national field director and some local staff to get the program up and running by next March. The lobbying group is also exploring a partnership with the grassroots group Brit Tzedek v’Shalom, which already has chapters affiliated with local JCRCs around the country, though that group’s president, Steve Masters, said it’s still too early to say exactly how they plan to work together. “I have no idea what this will look like,” he acknowledged.