Ayalon Clarifies MFA Position Toward J Street, US Jewish Organizations

February 24th, 2010

In today's Knesset debate on "The Foreign Ministry's Behavior Towards Members of the U.S. Congress and the J Street Lobby," Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said:

"Since you asked what is the policy of the Foreign Ministry towards J Street, I want to be clear about it.  We will treat it exactly as we will treat any other Jewish organization in the US. There are organizations from the right, organizations from the left, organizations from the center, period."
You can watch video and read a Hebrew transcript of the debate on the Knesset website here (Part 1) and here (Part 2).  A complete English translation of the debate is available below the fold.

Motions for the Agenda

The Foreign Ministry's behavior towards members of the U.S. Congress

and the J Street lobby

Chairman Alex Miller:

Members of the Knesset, we are moving to the next item on the agenda, motions for the agenda. The first motion for the agenda is the Foreign Ministry’s behavior towards members of the U.S. Congress and the J Street lobby, numbers 2629, 2660, 2664, 2670, 2681 and 2682. The first speaker is MK Nachman Shai. Please sir, you have three minutes.

Haim Oron (Meretz):

Who is answering us?

Shlomo Mula (Kadima):

Why isn't there a minister?

Chairman Alex Miller:

So I will not give you a time limit as long as the minister isn’t here.

Nachman Shai (Kadima):

Then I’ll sing Hatikva.

Chairman Alex Miller:

So you may start the discussion.

Shlomo Mula (Kadima):

Where are the ministers?

Nachman Shai (Kadima):

Thank you Mr. Chairman, members of the Knesset. In my unlimited time I would like to say a few words about another embarrassing affair that we have experienced thanks to the Foreign Ministry and its relations with the organization…

Chairman Alex Miller:

The deputy foreign minister has arrived.

Shlomo Mula (Kadima):

--- there has to be a minister.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Because he will answer, a member of the government. MK Mula, there is a cabinet minister here. The clock is running. Please, sir.

Nachman Shai (Kadima):

Are you sure? You better check that. J Street is a Jewish lobby that operates in the U.S. Congress. I would like to quote from their website what they are: it is a political or Israel political arm for peace, a movement for peace. We want to change the direction of US policy in the Middle East and expand the public discussion of political issues in the US about the Middle East. We support a strong American leadership that will end the Israeli-Arab conflict and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully and diplomatically. That is what J Street says.

J Street is a new lobby group that has been operating for over a year and from the beginning it has faced difficulties in its relations with the Foreign Ministry. At the first conference in Washington a few months ago the ambassador refused to come talk to them. After major efforts and after the matter became public, some representative of the embassy was sent.

Now a delegation from that organization, from that lobby, came to Israel. Five members of the US Congress, the House of Representatives, the CEO of the organization and another CEO of an organization called Churches for Peace in the Middle East.

They asked for a series of meetings in Israel. They asked for the Prime Minister, the president, the defense minister and so on. They met the Deputy Prime Minister, they met MK Amir Peretz who is here, the chairman of the Constitution, Justice and Law Committee, the head of the Yesha Council, the chairman of the opposition and so on. I would like to point out that on their way here they met the king of Jordan and the chairman of the Palestinian Authority.

They came here and the only ministry that refused to engage with him is the Foreign Ministry. They asked for the Foreign Minister, they asked for his deputy, and I quote from their statement: “Despite many efforts, the delegation did not manage to receive an answer in writing or orally directly from the Foreign Ministry about those meetings, and the Foreign Ministry did not present any evidence that it answered our requests directly.”

If that were not enough, in a series of reports in the newspapers that were widely published it said: the Foreign Ministry ordered to boycott the meetings scheduled with the members of the U.S. Congress. Now I can't understand what is going on with our relationship with J Street, and unfortunately also with our relations with other countries. Have we declared war on the U.S. Congress? Do we think that five members of the U.S. Congress are not important? Is there a reason, that maybe they do not agree with the Israeli government, which as far as I know is not against the law, that they cannot be received by the Foreign Ministry?

I know that explanations came out later and reasons and circumstances. Ladies and gentlemen, the bottom line is that neither the Foreign Minister nor his deputy, who is sitting here in this room, received the delegation from the US. I don't understand why that happened. I want to denounce it, I want to hear explanations and mainly I want to hear, Mr. Deputy Foreign Minister, that it was a mistake, that it shouldn't have happened, and that if J Street or any other group concerned with Jewish affairs and Israeli affairs in the US comes to Israel, the Foreign Ministry, including your honor, will meet them, because this is the most important dialogue that Israel should conduct. Thank you.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you. MK Amir Peretz, you also have three minutes, sir.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Mr. Chairman, members of the Knesset, Deputy Foreign Minister, I do not want to repeat the words of MK Nachman Shai, who described in detail the foundation of the organization and the various developments. But I know that there is a subject that may be hovering above all of us, which is the question of our other delicate relationship vis-à-vis AIPAC.

I want to declare here very clearly, we appreciate very much what AIPAC does for Israel, and we don't think that we should take that delicate relationship to Israeli intervention in what goes on in the Jewish organizations in the US.

I want to tell you, Mr. Deputy Foreign Minister, I was also at AIPAC conferences, and they are very impressive, very powerful. There is no doubt that we must do everything to strengthen relations with it, but I was also at the J Street conference. There I saw a new audience. There we saw -- there were other members of Knesset there. MK Mula who is sitting here and other members. We saw an audience of young Jews, for whom it may be their only opportunity to feel a little…

So it is true that there is a myth that supposedly -- I don't know where this myth came from -- J Street has anti-Israeli positions; that it is against our positions about Iran, that it supports the Goldstone report. Very harsh charges.

I tell you, instead of you doing the work and bringing the matter here. I asked them, and it is not true. J Street supports Israel's positions on those two key issues, even if it allows a chance, as the Israeli government is now doing, for Obama to first of all attempt to create a system of sanctions against Iran. But why the Foreign Ministry? J Street's positions are surely much more moderate than the positions of some European countries. So? Does the Foreign Ministry boycott European countries for that reason? Therefore let me posit: this is a moment of opportunity. All of that damage is very serious. Is this a small matter? A delegation of five Congress people just came and went? Tomorrow there will be a confrontation in Congress and these five have tremendous significance. Why dismiss them? Why insult them? Why humiliate them? To the contrary. If you think that J Street is poisoning them, then, please, you should have called them and been the ones who explained to them what Israel's positions are and what you expect from them. To the contrary, you should have had the meetings.

Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, I would like to say: I will not accept any attempt to say this is not a policy. I do not want to name names, I do not want to go into details. We were on a delegation now of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee to Washington. I heard what the Foreign Ministry’s position is because I asked officially and formally that among other meetings the board of J Street would meet members of the delegation. I heard what the Foreign Ministry’s position was -- that they are completely opposed, that there is a decision in the Foreign Ministry that they are boycotted, that they are off-limits. Even if you have a position about J Street, the Foreign Ministry should be the ministry that looks for every way to explain, to modify, to seek dialogue with them.

And lastly I address the Prime Minister: you are going to the US in a few weeks. You are going to a meeting with AIPAC. That is fine. I am for it. It is very important. We must by no means minimize or underestimate the big debt we have to AIPAC. But here is your opportunity, Mr. Prime Minister. Invite them. Don't go to the J Street conference but invite the J Street board to you. Listen to them. Give a feeling to all of the Jewish organizations from all ends of the spectrum, even if they don't think like you, that they are wanted and that Israel welcomes them for making an effort to raise support for Israel, even if there are differences over the various issues on the agenda. Thank you.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you. MK Oron.

Haim Oron (Meretz):

Mr. Chairman, members of the Knesset, in many ways, I think this discussion is the cousin of the discussion about the New Israel Fund. Not because J Street is NIF and not because it has the same features. I want to discuss the Israeli-Jewish aspect of this subject. Mr. Deputy Minister, the statement, even if you don't say it, but you really do say it, why should I speculate, that anyone who doesn't think the same way as I do is an anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli, is in another category, is anti-Jewish. I'm not going to give here an identity card to the members of J Street. I admit that I share a great deal of their positions. I know some of them. But this is not just about J Street. There were just some people here in Israel who see themselves as part of that circle. By the way, you would think that they have a party. It is not a party. But anyone who doesn't think exactly the same as me is an enemy.

Mr. Deputy Minister, I want to tell you that that is exactly the campaign we are waging today between people who are not members of our people, and I would like to present both ends of it. I know that among Israel's critics there are anti-Semites who use criticism of Israel as part of their anti-Semitic arguments. But not everyone who criticizes Israel is an anti-Semite. And here there is an approach that anyone who criticizes Israel is immediately pushed into a corner and called an anti-Semite. And then what happens? The world is divided into black and white. I know that in your opinion, maybe in the opinion of the Foreign Minister under whom you serve, the world really is black and white. But neither the Jewish arena is black and white, nor is the Israeli arena black-and-white nor is the world arena black-and-white. If you can't see this stream represented by J Street in the US and in Israel and vice versa as part of the legitimate Israeli discourse, which it is the duty of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which you say represents all of us, and represents me too -- I am not asking it to represent me in my personal opinions but to represent me in the sense that it represents the whole, including people that don't think the same as you. What, is this the first time in history? Is this the first time that there is a foreign minister or a prime minister that is criticized from the right or the left?

Therefore, Mr. Chairman, all of these mishaps are not mishaps. Actually this is the policy. This is an attempt, which I think is pathetic, to say: "We will show them. We have pride. We stand firm. We will not let everyone say what they want about us." That usually comes from weakness. It does not come from confidence. It does not come from a feeling of being right. It does not come from a feeling of inner justice. These are phrases that we know even from interpersonal relations, that come from somewhere else. I suggest that in this matter you be less weak.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you sir. MK Arieh Eldad.

Arieh Eldad (National Union):

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Deputy Minister, members of the Knesset. On the same day that the group of members of Congress visited Israel, and official parties did not want to meet them, another congressman also visited Israel. I took him on a tour with me and asked him what he thinks about not letting them meet the prime minister and the foreign minister. He said: them? That group has some of the biggest enemies of Israel in the US Congress.

When I try to think about J Street it depends whether I got up in a good mood or a bad mood. When I get up in a good mood I think about them: they are doing harm and wish to be rewarded. When I get up in a bad mood I remember what Rashi wrote in his Torah commentary about pig. Why do we hate it so much? Because the pig lays down and spreads its limbs and says "look how pure I am." What is my problem with that lobby? It is fine for there to be a lobby in Israel, in the US, wherever they want, that is in favor of establishing a Palestinian state in the middle of our country. I think it is a disaster for Israel, I think it is suicidal, I think it will destroy the Zionist enterprise. But it is perfectly legitimate. What is so infuriating about this lobby is the pure face they put on as a pro-Israeli lobby. So let everyone know. These are feathers they should not wear. Thank you.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you sir. I invite Deputy Foreign Minister MK Ayalon.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Mr. Chairman, the Hon. Knesset. The Foreign Ministry is always happy to host delegations of legislators and to schedule any meetings they ask for. Any legislator who comes to Israel is received with respect and friendship. The claims and rumors that we supposedly boycotted a delegation of legislators do not represent the position of the Foreign Ministry or the treatment the legislators who recently visited Israel received. To the contrary, it was the Foreign Ministry who asked the legislators to meet the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence Dan Meridor. We also scheduled meetings for them with the professional echelon. We can only regret the media spin that generated all of this noise and complaints.

Anyone who respects the rules of basic diplomacy, not to speak of elementary manners between people, does not dictate or try to force on the host an impossible or inconvenient schedule, or the participants in the meeting. Thank you. I suggest      ---

Amir Peretz (Labor):

What is the Foreign Ministry's position today?

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

About what?

Chairman Alex Miller:

No, MK Peretz.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Wait, let him.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I would like to ask a question. I officially asked the Foreign Ministry whether they were boycotted or not. What is your position? I am not talking about one incident or another.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Good. So first of all you agree that this was a non-incident, you are not fed by rumors.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I do not agree but I do not want to argue with you.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

But I want to explain to you.

Chairman Alex Miller:

We are not conducting a debate here ---

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I want to know what the official position is.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

You will hear it in a minute, MK Peretz. But first I want you to agree with me that the event is a non-event and if you are fed by the media or by one side, I want you to know the facts and I just gave them to you.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I don't agree.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

If that was not enough for you I will explain it better.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

No, don't explain it to me because I will not accept your opinion.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

You don't have to accept my opinion but at least you should know when you talk about something, what you are talking about.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I know better than you do what I am talking about.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I don't think you know better than I do and I don't think you can even tell the difference between J Street and K Street.

Chaiman Alex Miller:

MK Peretz, you can’t…

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Stop being so insolent, your irresponsible insolence.

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Peretz, please. I give you a first warning.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Silence the speaker.

Chairman Alex Miller:

You are not the speaker.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Silence the speaker.

Chairman Alex Miller:

You are not the speaker. And he does not have to answer you. You spoke for your three minutes.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Excuse me sir, he should speak with respect. Look at that arrogance.

Chairman Alex Miller:

The Deputy Minister got up and spoke. You can vote however you want and you can also submit an interpellation to the Deputy Foreign Minister or to the Foreign Minister, you can ask another question.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

It is very disrespectful to say to a Knesset member, a former defense minister, that he doesn't know the difference between J Street and K Street.

Chairman Alex Miller:

But we are not having a discussion.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

What kind of an arrogant comment is that?

Chairman Alex Miller:

Pardon me, I work by the Knesset bylaws. You do not speak from your seat. If you have anything to say you can say it from the podium, by the regulations.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

That was an inappropriate comment.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I suggest the Deputy Foreign Minister retract what he said because I do not suggest we start sparring here.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Retract what exactly?

Amir Peretz (Labor):

That you don't tell me what I understand and what I don't understand.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

You said you understand better than me.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

No, I asked you as the Foreign Ministry. Don't tell me what I understand and what I don't. I know the dramatis personae inside out.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

I suggest you, Deputy Minister, apologize for your comment.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I received an explanation from you and I asked what the Foreign Ministry's position is. So tell me what the position is, don't say --

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

When you retract what you said about what you don't understand then I will retract also.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I understand more than you do about it --- I care about Israel.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Enough, MK Peretz. You are speaking from your seat.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I don't want to be drawn into street language or a brawl.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

The street language is yours. People on the street are more respectful than you.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I suggest we have an orderly discussion.

Amir Peretz (Labor)

The street knows how to behave better than you. You impudent.

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Peretz, enough.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

You just got here yesterday and look how you talk. Impudent.

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Peretz, please.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Will you take back the word impudent?

Chairman Alex Miller:

It is disrespectful.

Amir Peretz (Labor)

When you take back what you said I will.

Chairman Alex Miller:

What you are doing is disrespectful to the Knesset of Israel.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

Excuse me sir, do you think what he just said is respectful?

Chairman Alex Miller:

What, to call a member of Knesset impudent?

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

He said they don't know the difference between J Street and K Street.

Chairman Alex Miller:

If you have a problem with conduct I refer you to the Knesset speaker and the ethics committee. Thank you.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

I do have a problem, a big problem. The Deputy Foreign Minister is patronizing because of his glorious record ---

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you. Are you done, sir?

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I am not done yet because I still want to respect.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

Are you in charge of the English alphabet? What is this?

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Gilon, you are speaking from your seat. I repeat what I said: I will not let members of Knesset conduct debates from their seats. If you have a comment you can make a comment but you will not conduct a discussion here. Thank you.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Mr. Chairman, since I think every member of Knesset should be respected here, and so should what they say if it has substance, I would like to address what MK Peretz said, very happily. So now I want to say one thing to you.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Great, just don't tell me what I do and don't understand.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Wait, you don't have to jump up all the time. You don't have to jump up. Just listen.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Excuse me, you have been here for two days. Don't teach us. Don't preach to us.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I don't want to teach you and you don't teach me.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Excuse me, you won't teach me. Be a little more humble. Your lack of humility has already caused enough damage to the state of Israel.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Hon. Sir, I don't want to tell. You are talking about humility? Nasrallah will always remember you. He still remembers you. Don't you tell me about humility. I am trying to respect you.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I respect you.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I am trying to speak to you as I speak to an elected official. Don’t you talk to me like the lowliest cleaner here. You are just out of control. You asked a question and I am answering you. You are trying to portray yourself as if you understand more than I do about America. Okay, I have no argument with you. I am not arguing.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I did not say that. You started with who understands and who doesn't understand.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Ask for the minutes from the beginning. But forget about it, let's address what you asked.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

But you are apparently making a certain assumption.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Do you want a discussion of substance or do you want headlines? Tell me what it is that you want exactly. Do you want a substantive discussion?

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I asked what the position of the Foreign Ministry is.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

MK Peretz, do you want a substantive discussion?

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Yes.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

So let me explain this to you. The motion for the agenda is about the behavior of the Foreign Ministry towards the members of the U.S. Congress and the J Street lobby. And you received a satisfactory answer. If it does not satisfy you, now you have another question, right? You asked: I want to know what the Foreign Ministry's position is towards J Street. That is not the motion for the agenda, but even though it is not the motion for the agenda ---

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Okay, that is also an answer, that is okay. It is not the motion for the agenda, it is an answer.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

So why are you jumping up all the time? Let me explain it to you. This is what I wanted to say to you.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

Excuse me, don't speak like that. If you speak respectfully we will answer you respectfully.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I treat you, Mr. Former Defense Minister of the State of Israel, with all respect and appreciation. You are a member of a respectable party, the historic Labor Party, I treat you with all respect and appreciation.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I am also glad that your government ---

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Peretz, can you stop this?

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

MK Peretz, former chairman of the Histadrut, representative of the Israeli workers, I have great respect for you.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

I am also glad that your government, your foreign minister, your prime minister --

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Hon. Sir, I don't know why you are drawn straight into insults.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Mr. Deputy Foreign Minister, I suggest you ---

Amir Peretz (Labor):

--- everyone today boasts of the results of the war you are criticizing.

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Peretz, you are speaking at the same time that I am speaking. I ask you to address the subject, I ask you not to address each Knesset member specifically, because we will never end this. If, sir, you have the official position of the Government of Israel about the issue, the motion for the agenda, you have the stage to answer the members of Knesset and then we will vote. Thank you.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

By the way, Nasrallah is still in his bunker.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Excellent. Excellent.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

To remind you, and not because of you. Not because of you.

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Peretz, for the second time. MK Peretz, for the second time.

Amir Peretz (Labor):

And you guys have a lot of credits ---

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Peretz, do you want to hear the response of the Deputy Foreign Minister or do you want to leave the room?

Amir Peretz (Labor):

And you better remember that.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Of course. Of course.

Danny Danon (Likud):

The Deputy Foreign Minister didn't want him to be in the bunker, he just didn't want him to be.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

Because of you people we will be in a bunker.

Danny Danon (Likud):

You will not be in a bunker, you can ---

Michael Ben Ari (National Union):

What about the binoculars, sir?

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Leave it alone, we do not want to stoop to such an interpersonal level, even if we are attacked. Members of the Knesset from the right, even if we are attacked personally and blatantly, it is because they do not have substantial arguments. It is always that way. When they don't have good answers they attack, not the subject but the person. It is not the first time and unfortunately it won't be the last time.

About what I said to the motion for the agenda, I am telling you, we have a set policy for members of Congress, and for the people who accompany members of Congress, and you, as a respectable member of the Knesset who met them, should have checked what the diplomatic protocol says and what elementary manners say. I think I answered that.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

What does the protocol say about ambassadors?

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Hon. Sir, I suggest you ---

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

You better not tell us what the protocol says because you admitted yourself you don't understand about the protocol very well.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I suggest to you again, you are talking about understanding or not understanding. Let's not have a contest, MK Gilon.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

J Street, K Street, where did you become so -- you tell me what the difference is.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I don't think it is honorable for you to have a contest who understands the diplomatic protocol better. I don't think it is honorable to have a contest to understand more. I think you are a respectable man ---

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

My grandfather would have said in this case it would be better for you to shut up. You should just shut up. You are in no position to talk a lot.

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Gilon, I am giving you a first warning now.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

MK Gilon, allow me. I respect you. I also respect MK Peretz, even if I do not respect or agree with your positions. I hope you will treat me the same way and not with all of these interruptions about who understands more than whom. Let's not have a contest, okay?

Since you asked what is the policy of the Foreign Ministry towards J Street, I want to be clear about it.  We will treat it exactly as we will treat any other Jewish organization in the US. There are organizations from the right, organizations from the left, organizations from the center, period.

Chairman Alex Miller:

What do you suggest?

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

I suggest removing the motion from the agenda. It is simply a matter that I don't think was worthy of bringing up here. Unfortunately it came up because people read too many newspapers and pay too little attention to the facts on the ground. Thank you.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you. We have another motion by MK Einat Wilf. Please, Ms.

Einat Wilf (Labor):

My motion is to pass the subject on for a discussion in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. It is a foreign affairs matter. I feel that when it comes to J Street we have lost our ability to sustain complex messages. It is an organization that at least has people who view themselves as serving the Israeli interest. They have good intentions but many of them are not aware of the fact that their good intentions and their attempts often serve interests that they do not want either.

I think it is important for Israel to have a clear policy about its interaction with them, which also consults with AIPAC about the right degree, that makes sure that the way they act does not serve interests that conflict with Israel's, while meanwhile not giving up on a big and important part of the Jewish people who want to find a way to maintain a relationship with Israel. We have to know how to bring near those who really want to be near and to draw the line for those who serve interests that are not our own. That is my motion.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you. MK Nissim Ze’ev.

Nissim Ze’ev (Shas):

Mr. Chairman, how much can we hurt ourselves? How much? How impervious and blind and stupid can we be? After all it is obvious that J Street was established in opposition to AIPAC. It is a left-wing organization and it is supported by the Palestinians.

Shlomo Mula (Kadima):

So what?

Nissim Ze’ev (Shas):

So what? So nothing. Give them all the respect, you are welcome to come, beat us up as much as you want and you are welcome. I think there is a difference between members of Knesset who see a group, dialogue and conversation, and the Foreign Ministry as a policy. The Foreign Ministry must not receive a group of people who are obviously anti-Israeli. A congressman who was in meetings with us, who is a Democrat, said clearly: their opinions are not acceptable to me. So why can't we think that maybe we are wrong?

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you. MK Ben Ari.

Michael Ben Ari (National Union):

Thank you Mr. Chairman. Mr. Deputy Foreign Minister, I would like to tell you that if you had capitulated to the frenzy that went on here last week you would have been sinning twice: one sin, as you mentioned, is that the Deputy Foreign Minister does not have to meet every Congressman. The congressman can come and suggest meeting somebody or other and can be received or not, just like a Knesset member who goes to the US, the undersecretary of state or somebody else does not clear their schedule, unless they have nothing to do with their time and they do. That is the first sin. But the second sin would have been to give legitimacy to an organization that is in opposition to Israel. An organization that is worthy of inviting MK Mula, nobody would object, or inviting MK Shetreet. That is their agenda. The agenda of the state of Israel is not the agenda of J Street. And what J Street wanted to do with the members of Congress is to legitimize this dangerous gang, and I congratulate you for refusing.

I also suggest removing the motion from the agenda.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you. MK Mula, and then we will vote.

Ilan Gilon (Meretz):

Tell me who congratulates you and I will tell you who you are.

Shlomo Mula (Kadima):

Mr. Chairman, members of Knesset, I would like to address the Deputy Foreign Minister. Listen, I participated in J Street. I think your policy is very problematic. For one thing, you prevented the Israeli ambassador from coming to their conference. Therefore you cannot tell us that your policy is different. Look where you are starting. If you start with groups in the US, tomorrow you are going to disqualify the Orthodox and the day after tomorrow the Reform.

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

---

Chairman Alex Miller:

You are not going to answer him.

Shlomo Mula (Kadima):

Some people do not want the Reform movement. After all there are Orthodox people who don't want the Reform. The next day you are going to say about the Conservatives, then you will say the right and the left. I suggest that we as the state of Israel that embraces the Jewish people, everyone who wants to come and help us, even when we have differences of opinion, it doesn't matter how they come, you can clarify their positions when you sit down and talk to them, but not with boycotts. Look what is happening. It is not for nothing that Ben Ari criticizes me and Shetreet for going. We are glad we went.

Michael Ben Ari (National Union):

I did not criticize you.

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Ben Ari, you are not going to answer him. You referred to him and he did not answer you, and you are not going to answer him either.

Michael Ben Ari (National Union):

--- I said you may.

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Ben Ari, no, you are not going to answer him.

Shlomo Mula (Kadima):

Furthermore I would like to tell you, Deputy Foreign Minister ---

Chairman Alex Miller:

MK Mula, this is not a speech here.

Shlomo Mula (Kadima):

I was also invited to AIPAC, I am happy to go to AIPAC. Your policy should be to work with every organization that wants to help Israel, not according to your personal worldview.

Chairman Alex Miller:

Thank you, MK Mula. I address those who made the motion. There was a motion from MK Einat Wilf to move the subject to the committee. Do you accept the motion by MK Einat Wilf?

My fellow MKs, we have a government position. Deputy Foreign Minister, do you stick to your request to remove the motion from the agenda?

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon:

Yes.

Chairman Alex Miller:

We have the government request to remove the motion from the agenda and we have the motion by the proposers to pass the issue to the committee. We are going to vote. In favor – committee, against – removal from the agenda at the request of the government. A vote.

Vote no. 9

In favor of passing the issue to the committee – 5

In favor of not including the issue on the agenda – 11

Abstain – none

The proposal not to include the issue on the Knesset agenda was accepted.

Chairman Alex Miller:

5 in favor, 11 against, the issue has been removed from the agenda.