"[Deputy Foreign Minister Danny] Ayalon did not prevent the delegation from meeting with senior Israeli officials," as claimed by J Street last week, said Barukh Binah, Foreign Ministry deputy director-general and head of its North America Division.
"Ayalon was never part of the delegation's schedule and talk of boycotting meetings with congressman has no basis in fact. On the contrary, the deputy foreign minister is always willing to meet with elected officials from any friendly country, especially the United States of America, and [with] Jewish organizations which represent a range of diverse views from across the political spectrum."
Binah also rejected the "subsequent assertion that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs apologized in hastily arranged meetings," which he said was simply not true.
A senior Foreign Ministry official who asked to remain anonymous blasted the group for "coming to the region with the intention of creating headlines, perhaps for fund-raising purposes. The media and the congressmen became unwilling participants in a premeditated public relations circus. It is extremely disappointing that a so-called pro-Israel organization would put self-aggrandizement ahead of the interests of the State of Israel."
Meanwhile, questions were raised in Israel about the pro-Israel credentials of the five-member congressional delegation brought by J Street, composed of California Democrats Lois Capps and Bob Filner, Massachusetts Democrat Bill Delahunt, New Jersey Democrat Donald Payne and Ohio Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy.
While J Street chairman Jeremy Ben-Ami asserted that the delegation members were "key friends of Israel in Congress," a recent vote on House Resolution 867, which slammed the Goldstone Report and reaffirmed Israel's right to self-defense, saw only one of the five voting in Israel's favor.
The resolution passed 344 to 36, with 22 voting "present" and 20 not voting.
Among delegation members, only Kilroy voted with the majority in favor of the resolution, which was deemed in Jerusalem an important pro-Israel bellwether. Capps and Filner voted against, delegation head Delahunt voted "present" and Payne did not cast a vote. Reached for comment on Sunday, a J Street official declined to respond to the allegation, except to say that the congressional delegation's concern came from news reports of a Foreign Ministry boycott in Israeli newspapers including Ma'ariv and Yediot Aharonot.
If there was no boycott, J Street and its supporters successfully staged an elaborate hoax, since Israeli Media had story after story about the boycott, and op-eds whining that Israel can't afford to reject J Street
. If the Foreign Ministry assertions are correct, then J Street probably planted the media stories that it now cites as the source of the information about the boycott. Doesn't it sound fishy when a group says they got news of a boycott of their group from the media? Couldn't they check with the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs first?