What is J Street?

Caitlin Kenney

J Street is a United States based, pro-Israel, pro-peace movement and advocacy group focused on finding peaceful solutions to the Arab-Israel conflicts. As a 501(c)(4), the group is a politically interested non-profit organization. In its network of organizations, J Street has a political action committee (PAC), or a private special interest group that raises financial and political support for candidates loyal to the PAC’s issues and constituency. J Street promotes multilateral and diplomatic, as opposed to unilateral and military, strategies for conflict resolution in Middle Eastern conflicts. Because it is classified as a charitable organization, it is exempt from campaign finance regulations.

J Street, a pro-peace advocacy group, desires a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.
J Street, a pro-peace advocacy group, desires a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts.

The organization derived its name from what would theoretically be the parallel street to K Street in Washington D.C, where some of the largest firms in the lobbying establishment are located. J Street does not, in reality, exist in the city’s grid. J Street, the organization, brings its interest, which, like its namesake, was previously missing, to the city’s lobbying establishment.

Founded in April of 2008, J Street is the first PAC to devote itself to electing federal officials in favor of changing American policy to advance the principles of peaceful negotiations in the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. Jeremy Ben Ami co-founded and currently leads J Street as the executive director. J Street’s advisory is composed of several former Israeli and United States public officials, policy experts, scholars, and community organizers. The list includes former U.S. Senator Lincoln Chaffee, Daniel Levy, the former Israeli official and lead drafter of the Geneva Initiative, Democratic Middle East policy expert Robert Malley, and voices from the groups Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek V'Shalom.

In 2008, J Street endorsed 41 candidates, three for Senate and 38 for the House of Representatives. Thirty-three of its candidates won seats. Among these were Democrat Barney Frank and Republican Charles Boustany for the House, and Democrat Jeff Merkley for Senate.

In addition to supporting candidates for election, J Street also lobbies for and against Israel-related legislation and bills that come through Congress. Their policies support engaging in dialogue with problematic countries and leaders, choosing diplomacy and avoiding military action when possible, and prioritizing the Arab-Israeli conflict in U.S. policymaking. The organization believes that U.S. military action in Iraq has escalated security threats in Israel and in the U.S. and has caused the spread of Al Qaeda. J Street recommends a highly diplomatic, multilateral withdrawal from Iraq, with a priority towards fostering political stability in the region.

J Street’s position on the Israel-Palestine conflict favors President Clinton’s two-state solution, in which two separate states with separate capitals are created, based on the 1967 lines but taking into account the demographic realities in the region. The group holds that the U.S. should engage with Syria and try to broker a peace treaty between Syria and Israel, while taking care to protect Lebanese sovereignty. In the conflict between Israel and the Arab world, J Street believes the U.S. taking an active, diplomatic, and multilateral role in facilitating broad-ranging peace would improve the U.S. reputation abroad and increase security for the United States, Israel, and the Arab world.

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