Major pro-Israel advocacy group shutting down amid polarized American politics

Officials cite the polarization of U.S. politics as the reason that their pro-Israel work has been so important but also as a cause for the group’s apparent demise.

By World Israel News Staff 

The Israel Project (TIP), a pro-Israel advocacy group, has shut its office in Jerusalem. Its Washington headquarters is said to have stopped operating and is expected to close sometime soon as well.

CEO and president Josh Block, a former Clinton aide who worked with AIPAC before arriving at TIP, announced at the beginning of July that he was stepping down after seven years.

The development has shaken the pro-Israel advocacy world, though some observers believe that the financial woes that struck TIP, founded in 2002, are less likely to happen at the more solidified, older pro-Israel groups.

Within TIP, top officials cite the polarization of U.S. politics and how it has affected Israeli-American ties as the reason that their work has been so important but also as a cause for the group’s apparent demise.

“The polarized political climate in the United States, both in the wider body politic and inside the Jewish community, is making it increasingly difficult for nonpartisan organizations … to enlist passionate, committed supporters willing to set aside differing views in pursuit of common purpose ;  in our case, strengthening Israel and ensuring the facts and truth are told in the media about the Jewish state,” said Block in a farewell comment.

Block was a strong opponent of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. It was a challenging time during one of the most contentious relationships between a U.S. president and an Israeli prime minister: Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu.

Then Donald Trump entered the White House, and the problem was turned on its head. President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu have been walking in step on a number of issues, including the withdrawal from the Iran deal, but Trump’s stormy relationship with the Democratic Party in Congress appears to have exacerbated the already-diminishing Democratic support for Israel.

“Over the past two-and-a-half years, when the polarization in America reached new heights, we preserved, with all our might and without compromise, the apolitical middle road because we knew that it was the right way to serve Israel and the way to serve Israel-U.S. relations,” wrote Lior Weintraub, TIP Jerusalem director, in a Facebook post on Thursday.

However, he adds, “American politics placed Israel in the midst of the American political dispute.” Pro-Israel Democrats, says Weintraub, turned their backs on TIP because of the group’s rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, and Republicans were interested in Israel-related initiatives only if they suited a very specific agenda.

“For the middle, there were no buyers in 2019, and TIP, as an intermediate organization, was the first victim of the polarization within the pro-Israel establishment in America,” he says, but adds, “to a large degree, it’s OK; there are targets for which, in the long term, it’s worth getting hurt.”

JNS contributed to this report.