NEW YORK CITY (JTA) –The leadership of J Street, the liberal American Jewish Middle East policy group, recently met with David Friedman, the United States ambassador to Israel who before his nomination had derided the group as worse than Nazi collaborators.
“We appreciate the willingness of Ambassador Friedman to meet members of Congress under the auspices of J Street,” said a statement from J Street distributed after the meeting. Friedman at the meeting was joined by a congressional delegation traveling in Israel under J Street auspices and led by J Street’s president, Jeremy Ben-Ami.
“It is vital to maintain an open channel of communication among American, Israeli and Jewish communal leaders of all political backgrounds,” J Street said.
Friedman, a longtime lawyer to President Donald Trump and a funder of the settlement movement, had derided J Street in writings and statements before Trump’s election last year, calling the group “worse than kapos,” the Jewish collaborators with Nazis. He had also said, before becoming ambassador but apparently having secured Trump’s pledge to nominate him, that as ambassador he would not meet with J Street.
In Senate confirmation hearings earlier this year, Friedman apologized for the “hurtful words” he said about liberal Jewish groups and individuals. Notably, however, he did not deliver a personal apology to J Street, although he did to other groups.
“While the content of today’s meeting was off the record, the fact of the meeting represents a recognition that there needs to be a broad dialogue in the pro-Israel community, even with those with whom we disagree,” the J Street statement said. “J Street is pleased to have the opportunity to convey on this trip to a wide variety of Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders the urgent necessity on the ground of making progress toward a two-state resolution to the conflict.”
The congressional delegation, all Democrats, included Reps. Barbara Lee and Ami Bera of California; Brenda Lawrence of Michigan; Bonnie Watson Coleman of New Jersey; Earl Blumenauer of Oregon; Cheri Bustos of Illinois, and Dwight Evans of Pennsylvania.