J Street challenges the monopoly of AIPAC which sees itself as the voice of US Jews
By Donald Macintyre
Representativeness, of course, is not the same as power. J Street has a budget of $3m (£1.8m) and AIPAC reportedly one of $70m. When AIPAC earlier this year fired a seemingly innocuous warning shot over a White House clearly bent on reviving a credible peace process, asking President Obama to ensure that America remains a "devoted friend" of Israel and to condition peace talks on an end to violence, its letter attracted 329 signatories in Congress. When J Street wrote its own letter urging active US involvement in the peace process, it got 87.
Neverthless the emergence of J Street is the first development in a long time to challenge the idea that to be a "friend of Israel" – yes even a "devoted" one – does not, as the US President himself put it during his primary campaign, mean signing up to every tenet of Likud policy. J Street certainly has the potential to help a US President who has seriously lost momentum in the Middle East after Mr Netanyahu's humiliating rejection of a total settlement freeze. In the longer-term – though Mr Netanyahu clearly does not agree – it [J Street] may actually have the potential to help Israel too. "