Top Obama aide to address group opposing Netanyahu
© Greg Nash

White House chief of staff Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughWe have a golden opportunity to restore and reform VA hospitals The Hill's Morning Report - Biden to make voting rights play in Atlanta Schwarzenegger donates 25 tiny homes to homeless vets in LA MORE will be the keynote speaker at the national conference of J Street, a group that opposes many of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's policies.

The group announced that McDonough would address the gathering on Monday and discuss Israel's future following Netanyahu's commanding reelection victory earlier this week.


“At this pivotal moment, we couldn’t be more excited to have White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough joining us at the largest pro-Israel, pro-peace gathering in the United States,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami in a statement.

“As the new governing coalition forms in Israel, we are eager to hear how the White House plans to set the diplomatic agenda and continue to work towards a two-state solution,” he added, referring to the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

J Street, a pro-Israel group, has positioned itself as an alternative to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), taking a more critical stance toward Netanyahu's government.

McDonough's speech will be closely watched and comes amid new tensions between the Obama administration and Netanyahu.

White House political director Dan Simas initially congratulated the “Israeli people” early Wednesday on their election but did not name Netanyahu.

Secretary of State John KerryJohn KerryA presidential candidate pledge can right the wrongs of an infamous day Equilibrium/Sustainability — Dam failures cap a year of disasters Four environmental fights to watch in 2022 MORE later telephoned Netanyahu that evening. The White House said Thursday that Obama could speak to Netanyahu as early as Thursday.

The Obama administration is also hitting back at Netanyahu’s comments before the vote that he would not allow a Palestinian state if reelected.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest called Netanyahu’s decision “divisive” and “deeply concerning” on Wednesday.

Netanyahu backpedaled on Thursday, saying his administration could still “work together” with Obama’s despite their differences.

J Street on Wednesday said that Netanyahu's reelection would set back that goal and harm Israel's security.

“Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory is a deep disappointment to all who hoped for a new direction for the country in yesterday’s election,” it said in a statement. “Sadly, the results of this election will only deepen Israel’s growing isolation.”

Israel’s elections were a convincing victory for Netanyahu and his Likud Party. Likud picked up 30 out of 120 seats in the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. That total was the most of any faction voters selected.

J Street’s conference runs March 21-24, and attendees will also discuss the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program. The group estimates that more than 3,000 people will hear McDonough’s address Monday night.