Dani Dayan, Israel’s just-designated consul-general to New York, last week called the dovish pro-Israel lobby J Street “un-Jewish” over its ostensible support for US politicians critical of Israeli policies.
“I prefer the attitude of AIPAC to that of J Street that endorses all the anti-Israel candidates — the more anti-Israel you are the more you are endorsed by J Street. That’s un-Jewish,” he said during a television interview conducted Thursday and aired Saturday.
In a statement Tuesday evening, J Street said it was “dismayed” by Dayan’s remarks.
Dayan, a former settler leader, had made comments critical of J Street in the past. The animosity was mutual: J Street has repeatedly voiced concerns over Israel’s intention to appoint him to diplomatic positions abroad due to his vocal opposition to a two-state solution.
Responding to a Times of Israel query about his remarks, Dayan stressed that he is “one of the very few Israeli right-wing figures that never boycotted J Street.” On the contrary, he said, “I always made a point of maintaining an open dialogue with its leaders and missions. I am often criticized by my colleagues for that but I am proud of doing it.”
The group’s head, Jeremy Ben Ami, would agree with that assessment, Dayan said. “We had our share of strong arguments but that did not prevent us from keep our dialogue alive.”
Dayan, however, did express “harsh personal criticism of most of their policies, including their endorsements of Senate and House candidates,” he told The Times of Israel. “I believe that endorsing candidates that advocate leniency toward Hamas or routinely accuse Israel and only Israel of alleged intransigence is neither pro-Israel nor pro-peace. That endorsement policy indeed puzzles me.”
His comment about J Street being “un-Jewish” was made as a private person, he added, though he admitted it was “somewhat undiplomatic.”
At the time the interview was conducted by Tal Shalev for Israel’s i24news television channel, Dayan was Israel’s designated ambassador to Brazil, though it was apparent that the government in Brasilia was unwilling to confirm his nomination due to his past as leader of Israel’s settlement movement.
On Monday morning, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Dayan had been appointed to succeed Ido Aharoni as consul-general in New York.
In a series of tweets shortly after the announcement, Dayan pledged to work with all segments of American society and the local Jewish community. He promised to engage in an “inclusive dialogue” with everyone and promised to make “no exclusions.”
I intend to reach out to Orthodox & Reforms, Liberals & Conservatives, Republicans & Democrats.
— Dani Dayan (@dandayan) March 28, 2016
As CG of @IsraelinNewYork I will maintain an open & inclusive dialogue w/all parts of the general society & Jewish community. No exclusions
— Dani Dayan (@dandayan) March 28, 2016
J Street, in a press release published Monday, had expressed “deep concern” over Dayan’s appointment as Israel’s consul general in the city home to the world’s largest Jewish community outside Israel.
“Though the prime minister of Israel continues to express his concern that Israel not become a binational state, he is sending as his envoy to New York a man who served for years as chairman of the settlers’ council and who revels in predicting the demise of the two-state solution,” the group stated.
On Tuesday evening, J Street said it was “dismayed” that Dayan had referred to its policies as “un-Jewish,” while expressing hope that it could work with him in the future as consul general.
“We proudly represent the mainstream beliefs of a large segment of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans and of American Jews, including over 850 rabbis and cantors on our Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet,” the group said in a statement on its website.
“Particularly in New York, where Mr. Dayan will be posted, he will find the beliefs of many in the Jewish community more in line with our world view than his,” the statement said. “He will find it more fruitful to engage in substantive debate on the issues in his new post, than to engage in personal attacks on the large number of Jews in the New York area and across the country who disagree with him. These kinds of slurs impugning our faith should simply be out-of-bounds for an official emissary of the Israeli government. We appreciate that Mr. Dayan has subsequently acknowledged that his words were ‘somewhat undiplomatic’ — though we wish he would go further and admit that they were flat-out wrong.”
The statement added, “We hope that our future engagement with Mr. Dayan can move forward in that spirit of respectful dialogue and debate.”