J Street Could Be Partner in BDS Fight

YERUSHALAYIM -

The Israeli minister in charge of the battle against BDS has been exploring the possibility of working with the liberal U.S. lobby J Street to counter the boycott movement, Haaretz said on Monday.

Minister for Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan said that he met with J Street’s representative in Israel Yael Patir last week to look at how they might join forces.

“It is important to understand that in this battle there is no right or left, hawks or doves,” Erdan told the Herzliya Conference last week. “This battle requires cooperation between the government and civil society, both in Israel and abroad.

“I recently returned from a visit to the U.S., where I met people who predominantly support Israel, but many of whom also have serious questions about Israel’s policies – including students and leading university facility, leaders from the African-American, Hispanic and Asian communities,” Erdan said during his speech.

Sources said that Erdan had initiated the meeting and that he was willing to talk with J Street’s president Jeremy Ben-Ami if it seemed like the idea had potential. He said that the common struggle against BDS transcends any differences the Israeli government has with J Street over the Palestinian issue.

Erdan’s contact with J Street is unusual, as is his openness about it. The group remains persona non grata on the Israeli right and in right-wing Jewish groups in the United States, who do not view it as pro-Israel.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has never met with any representative of the group, nor has Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Ron Dermer.

However, recognition of J Street’s usefulness in fighting BDS, especially due to its connections with progressives and liberals, presumably prompted Erdan to take a different tack. In addition, the group is influential on many college campuses, and has been credited with thwarting certain boycott efforts.