WASHINGTON - Israel's ambassador to the US Michael Oren announced Tuesday that he will not be attending J-Street's annual convention next week.
The Israeli Embassy will be represented by a lower-level staff member. "In response to the question about J Street's invitation to participate in its conference, the Embassy of Israel has been privately communicating its concerns over certain policies of the organization that may impair the interests of Israel," the embassy said in a statement. "Accordingly, the embassy will send an observer to the conference and will follow its proceedings with interest."
J-Street, which describes itself as a "pro-Israel, pro-peace" lobbying organization has criticized Israel's conduct during December-January war against Hamas in Gaza, has supported calls for a total settlement freeze and backs a diplomatic solution to the standoff with Iran over its nuclear program.
The keynote speaker at the convention will be National Security Advisor, Gen. James Jones, and among the many Israelis expected to attend are former ministers Shlomo Ben-Ami and Ami Ayalon.
J-Street said in response to Ambassador Oren's decision, "We believe the Government of Israel will be missing an opportunity should it choose not to engage with the over 1,200 pro-Israel activists who will be in attendance at the J Street conference next week."
Meanwhile, J-Street has decided to cancel a poetry session scheduled as part of the conference after it was revealed that one of the poets who was scheduled to attend made controversial remarks about Israel, the Jews and the Holocaust.
Poet Josh Healey questioned whether "the chosen people" had been "chosen to recreate our own history merely reversing the roles, with the script now reading that we're the ones writing numbers on the wrists of babies born in the ghetto called Gaza?" He has also written that "Anne Frank is Matthew Shepard" and "Guantanamo is Auschwitz."