Lapid Ends Snub of J Street by Meeting with Congressional Democrats

On Monday, Yair Lapid, the Israeli Foreign Minister had a meeting with a Congressional delegation that J Street had sponsored, which makes it the first time in years that the dovish Israel lobby has interacted with a senior member of the Israeli cabinet. The Democrat-only delegations that came to Israel was made up of lawmakers including Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Melania Stansbury, Barbara Lee, Mark Pocan and head of the House Appropriations Committee, Rosa DeLauro. The J Street Education Fund sponsored this trip and it would also see the lawmakers meet Palestinian officials. Lapid said in a tweet that he had thanked them for their support of the Iron Dome missile defense system and also talked about strengthening the US-Israel relationship.

According to reports, this meeting was a first in four years between a J Street delegation and a minister. The group also met Issawi Frij, the Minister of Regional Cooperation of Meretz and tweeted that they were partners of Israel and its true friends as they support the two-state solution. The relation of Benjamin Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister of Israel who had remained in power from 2009 till June 2021, had been a bit prickly when it came to the liberal group. His governments’ right-wing members had chosen to stay away from meetings the group had sponsored, along with their annual conference in Washington.

Members of the Netanyahu governments had consistently blackballed the group since its first Congressional delegation in the country in 2010. During that first trip, the top government official who had met with the group had been Dan Meridor, who was the deputy minister. Gilad Erdan had met with the head of the J Street’s office in Israel in 2016 when he had been internal security minister. He is ambassador to the United States today and had had the meeting in order to get support for combating the efforts made for boycotting Israel. 

At that time, the meeting had been described as the first ever to take place between a member of J Street and the Netanyahu government. From 2013 to January 2013, Israel’s ambassador to the US had been Ron Dermer and while serving in that position, he had consistently refused to have a meeting with J Street. Danny Ayalon, the deputy foreign minister in 2010 had bristled when J Street called itself pro-Israel. Ayalon said that they shouldn’t call themselves that and it bothered him that they didn’t present themselves as to who they really were.

The tweet from Lapid did not disclose that the trip had been sponsored by J Street. Members of the government have stated previously that they would meet with delegations, as long as officials of J Street do not accompany them. J Street did not immediately comment on the meeting and even in a statement made on late Monday, they did not say whether the sit-downs would be a first. During their five-day trip, the Congressional delegation will also meet President of Israel Isaac Herzog and Merav Michaeli, the Minister of Transportation.  

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