Israel's DC envoy refuses to meet J Street, snubs other left-wing Jewish groups

Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the United States speaks at the Economic Club of Detroit in Detroit, Monday, June 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

WASHINGTON — Since taking his post as Israel’s ambassador to the United States in 2013, Ron Dermer has refused to meet with J Street, a liberal Middle East advocacy group. He has likewise not engaged with other left-leaning Jewish groups often critical of the Netanyahu government.

Liberal Jewish activists told The Times of Israel that the envoy’s unwillingness to speak with them is further evidence of the splintering relations between Jerusalem and the American Diaspora, and the growing partisan divide over Israel in the United States.

“He may deeply disagree with our views, but they are representative of the majority of American Jews on Israel and a viable solution to the conflict,” Jessica Rosenblum, J Street’s senior vice president of public engagement, told the Times of Israel. “And it’s not just a majority of American Jews, but a growing majority.”

Recent polling has shown that Democrats and Republicans are diverging on their views about the seemingly intractable conflict. The Pew Research Center found in January that 79 percent of Republicans “sympathize” more with Israel than the Palestinians, compared to just 27% of Democrats — of whom about an equal percentage supported Palestinians more. In the last election, 71% of US Jews voted Democrat.

Beyond J Street, which has sent multiple written requests for a meeting since Dermer assumed his post six years ago, and for him to address its galas and conferences, the ambassador has not met with other leading left-wing Jewish groups, including the New Israel Fund or Americans for Peace Now, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Those groups, however, have not sought a meeting in the frequent and persistent way J Street has.

A source with Americans for Peace Now said a meeting was initially scheduled years ago, but Dermer then had to travel out of town. Since then, the organization has not “pursued it diligently,” the source said. But neither was any engagement initiated on the ambassador’s end.

Despite repeated requests, Ambassador Dermer declined to comment for this report. In public comments, Dermer has highlighted the importance of bipartisan support for Israel.

Dermer’s predecessor, Michael Oren, who held the post from 2009 to 2013, regularly met with J Street and other progressive Jewish organizations.

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