J Street launches campaign against Netanyahu
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J Street launches campaign against Netanyahu

Online petition says PM ‘cannot claim any mandate to speak for Jews in the US’ when he addresses Congress on Iran

Ilan Ben Zion, a reporter at the Associated Press, is a former news editor at The Times of Israel. He holds a Masters degree in Diplomacy from Tel Aviv University and an Honors Bachelors degree from the University of Toronto in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Jewish Studies, and English.

Screen capture of the JStreet home page, featuring a petition against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as 'the spokesman for all Jews'
Screen capture of the JStreet home page, featuring a petition against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as 'the spokesman for all Jews'

The American J Street lobbying group on Monday launched a petition denouncing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that his controversial upcoming speech before Congress will be on behalf of all Jews.

Netanyahu told a gathering of Francophone Likud party supporters on Sunday that he “came to Paris not only as the prime minister of Israel, but as a representative of the entire Jewish people.

“Just as I arrived there in Paris, thus I shall arrive to any place where I’m invited,” Netanyahu said.

J Street, a liberal pro-Israel organization, launched the petition on its website on Monday. “I’m a Jew. Bibi [Netanyahu] does NOT speak for me!” the petition read, adding that the Israeli prime minister “is not the spokesman for all Jews.”

“He’s in the middle of a tough election campaign, battling along with other party leaders for the right to represent Israelis — but he certainly cannot claim any mandate to speak for Jews in the United States,” the left-leaning group wrote on the petition. “Add your name. Help us let his Ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, know that — as an American, as a Jew — Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t speak for you.”

As of the time of publication, it wasn’t clear how many signatures the petition had garnered.

J Street describes itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans fighting for the future of Israel as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people,” including a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Netanyahu’s acceptance of US Speaker of the House John Boehner’s invitation to speak before a joint session of Congress, two weeks before the March 17 Knesset election and without prior coordination with the White House, has set off a firestorm of controversy. Some Israeli and American lawmakers were joined by a number of American Jewish leaders in calling on Netanyahu to cancel the trip, a move the prime minister has thus far resisted.

“At a time when there are those who would deal with protocol and politics, an agreement with Iran is taking shape in Munich that would risk Israel’s existence,” Netanyahu said on Twitter on Monday, apparently referring to talks over the weekend in the German city between US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. “Therefore, I’m determined to travel to Washington and present Israel’s position before Congress and the American people.”

The Prime Minister’s Office declined comment on J Street’s petition.

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