Growing Clout

12.05.12

Will Commentary Credit J Street's Win?

It's no secret that the general editorial bent of the magazine Commentary—the neocon id—doesn't look kindly on the liberal Zionist group J Street. Yesterday, though, Commentary writer Alana Goodman took on J Street's claims of success during the November election and said the group was overstating its accomplishments. The group won almost all the races it actively participated in. Goodman demurred:

There’s actually a less dramatic explanation for J Street’s supposed “victories.” After years of getting crushed by AIPAC in the lobbying game, J Street may have found success in the old adage, “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.” The group has started endorsing some sure winners, and then claiming credit when the inevitable happens.

As Steve Rosen pointed out at Foreign Policy, many of the candidates J Street endorsed were also backed and more heavily financed by AIPAC-associated PACs. 

If her thesis is correct, Goodman would have done well to heed J Street's strategy and stick with predictable outcomes. Instead, she ventured an alternate method for gauging J Street's growing power in Washington: 

[J Street]'s opposing any congressional response to the Palestinian U.N. declaration, and any efforts to sanction the PLO mission in Washington.

Several lawmakers have already proposed action against the Palestinian Authority. But what about the members of Congress J Street said it helped get elected? Will they object to these proposals, and support the J Street position? Or did J Street’s “incredible victory” end on election day?

It's indeed a juicy indicator: immediately after the recent U.N. vote on upgrading Palestine's status, AIPAC called for a "full review" of U.S. relations with the Palestinians, including closing the PLO's office, and backed a measure that would do just that. A J Street campaign, on the other hand, marshaled 15,000 e-mails and phone calls to Congress opposing the amendment booting the PLO from D.C.

So, who won? J Street: the amendment, somewhat mysteriously, disappeared from the bill it was attached to. JTA's Ron Kampeas called it "a rare fail of the pro-Israel mainstream"—but that AIPAC no longer has the monopoly on the "pro-Israel mainstream" is precisely the lesson, by the lights of Alana Goodman, that we should take from this episode. The liberal group is gaining some real clout in Washington, and Goodman, having posited that the bill to punish Palestinians was a test, should pony up and acknowledge that, by even the metric she chose to introduce, J Street indeed can claim credit for some D.C. victories. Over to you, Alana.