Joe Biden to address J Street conference

Left-leaning Jewish lobby says speakers at this month’s annual gathering are of ‘extraordinary caliber’; Netanyahu has not responded to invite

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

US Vice President Joe Biden (AP/Markus Schreiber/File)
US Vice President Joe Biden (AP/Markus Schreiber/File)

WASHINGTON — US Vice President Joe Biden will address the upcoming J Street annual conference, the organization revealed Tuesday. Biden will deliver his speech on the third day of the four-day meet.

“Secretary of State John Kerry has called on the American Jewish community to rally ‘a great constituency for peace,’” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “The Obama Administration has made the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top foreign policy priority. In convening this conference, we have a real opportunity and, in fact, an obligation to demonstrate the tremendous support that exists behind those efforts.”

Biden is not the only representative of the administration to come to talk up the current peace talks in front of what is considered to be a receptive audience. Martin Indyk, the US special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, will also address the conference, serving as the keynote speaker for the gala dinner to be held on the same day as Biden’s address.

J Street has repeatedly emphasized that it views this year’s conference as unprecedented in the number and diversity of its participants, among whom are a number of members of Congress as well as representatives of six Knesset parties.

“The extraordinary caliber of our conference lineup this year is testament to the adage that there is indeed nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come,” Ben-Ami said. “A sense of the urgent necessity of a two-state solution is gaining momentum here and in Israel, as is the realization that all those committed to Israel’s Jewish and democratic future have a vital role in seeing it achieved.”

The timing of the conference converges well with the Obama administration’s long-term attempt to raise enthusiasm for the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks that are currently underway.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Washington in the midst of the conference to meet with Obama as part of his trip, but neither heads of state are planning on making their way down the street to the convention center.

The White House confirmed Netanyahu’s visit to Washington near-concurrently with its confirmation that the vice president would attend the conference. J Street had asked the White House if it would send a “senior administration official,” and received confirmation Tuesday of both Biden’s and Indyk’s attendance.

A J Street official confirmed that the left-leaning lobby had invited Netanyahu to the annual conference, but that the prime minister had not responded.

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