Democrats to benefit from US lobby’s cash

Two Congressmen and five Congressional hopefuls will be receiving campaign money from J Street, the new dovish Jewish-American lobby.

The lobby announced its first round of political endorsements on Monday and the recipients will be six Democrats and one Republican. J Street is an organisation aiming to support candidates who will push for more aggressive American engagement in the Israeli-Arab peace process, oppose the Iraq war, and encourage diplomatic talks with Iran and Syria.

Many see the left-leaning body as an alternative to Washington’s more established Aipac (American Israel Public Affairs Committee).

“J Street was founded on the premise that there is a crying need for a new voice in American politics to support a strong, sensible pro-Israel policy based on peace, diplomacy and conflict resolution,” said Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, on a conference call in which the seven endorsements were announced.

“We need to support Israel, and ensure its survival,” said Steve Cohen of Tennessee, one of the recipients. “The only way to do that is to resolve the conflict.”

Mr Cohen is one of the Jewish members of the group that also includes non-Jewish candidates from all across the US. Donna Edwards, an African- American candidate from Maryland, thanked J Street for “looking at old problems in a different way”.

Mr Ben-Ami said in a recent interview that the criteria J Street would use to decide which candidates to support would include “a willingness to speak openly and forcefully about the importance of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the future of the region and to the interests of the United States, Israel and its neighbours”.

Charles Boustany, also supported by J Street, recently sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in which he urged greater US funding for Palestinian Authority reforms. Mr Boustany, an Arab-American and the only Republican in the group of seven, says he is happy to join a “coalition for a sensible diplomatic approach”.

Some of the recipients do not see the endorsement from the new lobby as a way of distancing themselves from Aipac. “I don’t see J Street and Aipac as being antithetical,” said Mr Cohen, who travelled to Israel with Aipac last year.

J Street plans to make a couple of dozen more congressional endorsements before the November elections.

    Last updated: 3:04pm, June 19 2008