Intel: J Street endorsement sets up battle with AIPAC for Biden’s ear

al-monitor Democratic US presidential candidate and former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the 11th Democratic candidates debate of the 2020 US presidential campaign, held in CNN's Washington studios without an audience because of the global coronavirus pandemic, in Washington, US, March 15, 2020. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.
Bryant Harris

Bryant Harris


Topics covered

2020 US election

Apr 17, 2020

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, accepted a major endorsement from the lobbying group J Street today, setting up a battle for the former vice president’s ear with the left-leaning organization’s main rival, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

“J Street has been a powerful voice to advance social justice here at home and to advocate for a two-state solution that advances Middle East peace,” Biden said in a statement. “I share with J Street's membership an unyielding dedication to the survival and security of Israel, and an equal commitment to creating a future of peace and opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian children alike.”

This is the first time J Street has ever endorsed a candidate for president. The increasingly influential lobby group first announced that it would endorse the eventual Democratic nominee in January.

“At a time when the threats to our core values both at home and abroad have never been more serious, all of us in the pro-Israel, pro-peace community know that the path to a better future begins with defeating Donald Trump at the polls,” said J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Why it matters:  Biden has traditionally boasted close ties with AIPAC throughout his decades-long political career. Still, that didn’t stop AIPAC from spending millions to defeat the Iran nuclear deal that Biden championed as vice president. The vice president thanked J Street for its support for the Iran deal when addressing the group’s national gala in 2016.

Nonetheless, Biden has resisted J Street’s push to restrict military aid to Israel if it moves forward with annexing West Bank settlements and the Jordan Valley — a position that more closely aligns with AIPAC. Biden took the time to address both last year’s J Street conference and this year’s AIPAC conference via video.

During his AIPAC address, Biden urged the Israelis “to stop the threats of annexation and settlement activity,” warning that they would undermine “support for Israel in the United States, especially among young people in both political parties.” This position stood in stark contrast to AIPAC president Betsy Berns Korns’ remarks at the conference, who praised Trump for greenlighting annexation in his peace plan.

What’s next:  J Street will now transfer $240,000 to the Biden campaign through its PAC. The organization noted that it also plans to raise more than $1 million for Biden before election day.

Know more:  AIPAC and J Street are engaged in a fierce tug-of-war with the Democratic party over whether — and to what extent — the United States should lift Iran sanctions, reports congressional correspondent Bryant Harris. Also check out his report on how AIPAC has convinced a sizable number of Democrats to jump on board with undoing one of the last provisions of the Iran nuclear deal.

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