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July 29, 2013 10:30 pm

J Street Leader Supports Palestinian Convict Release; Says ‘We Have the Ear of the White House’

avatar by Zach Pontz

J Street Founder and President, Jeremy Ben-Ami.

Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, the advocacy group that refers to itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace,” believes that the recent promised release of 104 pre-Oslo Palestinian convicts was the right move by Israel’s politicians.

In an interview with the New Republic, Ben-Ami was unequivocal in his support of the move, saying: “These prisoners are the hardest of the hardcore. But [they are] also at the center of the sense of Palestinian dignity and respect. It is not only addressing a fundamental Palestinian issue, it is also a political issue for Abu Mazen and the Fatah party—the people you want to make a deal with.”

The move to release the prisoners, passed in a vote by the Israeli Cabinet Sunday night, has been at the center of a heated debate in Israel, with victims of terror voicing strong opposition.

Ben-Ami, describing J Street as “a moderate, centrist place,” also touted his organization’s influence in Washington, a position traditionally dominated by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

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“We have the ear of the White House; we have the ear of a very large segment of Congress at this point; we have very good relations with top communal leadership in the Jewish community.”

And, not sticking simply to politics, he addressed a scandal involving controversial billionaire investor George Soros, in which J Street denied accepting money from him before leaked IRS documents proved otherwise. Ben-Ami, skirting the organization’s earlier deceptive practices, proved more transparent this time, confiding that not only does Soros donate, but that “his son is a contributor now, too.”

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