By William Wan
President Obama met with top Jewish leaders in the U.S. this afternoon to assuage them about his approach to issues like Iran and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
The meeting took place at 3 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room and lasted about an hour with more than a dozen Jewish leaders attending. According to them, Obama gave a general overview focusing on Middle East issues. Obama revealed nothing new, but he emphasized he is putting equal pressure on both Israel and Palestine in trying to push the peace process forward.
Obama addressed recent statements he has made pointing out the need for Israel to take responsibility on the issue of settlements. But he said those statements toward Israel have overemphasized and that he has been equally tough with Palestinian leaders, telling them they need to fulfill promises to reduce incitement and violence.
“He said he wanted to have a candid conversation about what he’s thinking, where his policies coming from,” said Rabbi Steven Wernick of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. “He wanted to reassure Jewish community of the good faith and alliance between US and Israel.”
Of course, the full-spectrum of the Jewish community was there, so there were a lot of different takes on the meeting. I just talked to two leaders who attended the meetings, but some other interesting perspectives are represented in this Politico post. Also, an interesting article in the UK’s Telegraph talking about the background leading up to the meeting.
“It was a real substantive dialogue, and an amazing chance to meet a president who’s interested in his constituents to the point of meeting with them around a table and hearing their thoughts,” said Wernick. “I didn’t get a chance to ask my question, but one thing I really wanted to know is on the Israeli side with the settlements, it’s easy to measure whether Israel is keeping its commitments through building there, permits, etc. But it’s not so easy to measure whether Palestinians are keeping their commitments. I wanted to ask him if there are policies or ways to concretely measure whether they are stopping incitements.”
Andrea Weinstein, chair of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, said she asked Obama about the issue of hunger and the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act up for consideration this fall and how to find federal dollars for it. Obama made no promises but expressed his support on the need to fight hunger domestically, she said.
Obama senior advisors David Axelrod and Rahm Emmanuel were there. Official readout from White House attached below with short summary and list of participants:
The President met with more than a dozen leaders from the Jewish community today for approximately 45 minutes. They had a substantive discussion, ranging from Middle East peace efforts and Iran, to reforming our health care system and policies to address global hunger. The President reiterated his unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security, and reiterated his commitment to working to achieve Middle East peace.
Alan Solow, Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Lee Rosenberg, President-elect, AIPAC
David Victor, President, AIPAC
Malcolm Honlein, Executive Vice Chairman, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
Abraham Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League
Jason Isaacson, Director of Government and International Affairs, American Jewish Committee
Nancy Ratzan, President, National Council of Jewish Women
Kathy Manning, Chair, Executive Committee, United Jewish Communities
Andrea Weinstein, Chair, Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Marla Gilson, Washington Director, Hadassah
Stephen Savitsky, President, Orthodox Union
Rabbi Steven Wernick, Executive Vice President and CEO, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union for Reform Judaism
Ira Forman, Chief Executive Officer, National Jewish Democratic Council
Debra DeLee, President and CEO, Americans for Peace Now
Jeremy Ben Ami, Executive Director, J STREET