Obama to U.S. Jewish Leaders: Israel Must Engage in Self-Reflection


obama7President Barack Obama met with 15 American Jewish leaders at the White House for the first time yesterday. The president and the Jewish officials huddled for talks aimed at clearing the air following allegations that his administration was taking a tough line with Israel over settlement activity. At the meeting, Obama told the leaders that he wants to help Israel overcome its demographic problem by reaching an agreement on a two-state solution, but that in order to do so, Israel would need “to engage in serious self-reflection.”

On the Iranian nuclear issue, Obama told the leaders that “the door to dialogue is open. If the Iranians do not walk through it, however, we will have to see how we proceed. But it would be a mistake to talk now about what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it.”

One of the participants at the meeting asked the president to take a lower profile regarding the public differences between his administration and the government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the United States’ demand that Israel freeze all settlement construction activity in the West Bank. “This situation is not helpful,” he told the president, who rejected the request, saying that during the eight years of the Bush administration, such disagreements were never made public but that such an approach was not helpful in advancing the peace process.

Obama added that there is a narrow window of opportunity for advancing the peace process and that he plans to speak openly and honestly with Israel – “a true friend of the U.S.” – just as he did with the Arab nations in his speech at Cairo University in June.

Among the groups attending the meeting were the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the Orthodox Union, the United Jewish Communities, the Union for Reform Judaism, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the American Jewish Committee and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

“He (Obama) said that there is more progress than appears in the negotiations and spoke quite positively of the tracks between Mitchell and Barak and between the two administrations,” said one participant, Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents.

One major obstacle has been Israel’s insistence on allowing some “natural growth” of existing settlements.

Hoenlein said Obama indicated that “there might be some opening for an understanding between the two parties. I don’t know what the understanding is.”

Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, a pro-Israel lobby group in Washington, said Obama stressed that further expansion of settlements was not in the interest of the United States or Israel.

“The president said that the gaps are narrowing and he did allude to progress and his hope that an agreement would be reached. He definitely alluded to that,” Ben-Ami said.

He said members of the group urged Obama to visit Israel.

Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said Obama stressed that he was also pressing the Palestinians to take steps necessary for peace.

A spokesman for Stephen Savitsky, president of the Orthodox Union, said there was concern about what appeared to be one-sided pressure on Israel. The spokesman said Obama indicated that he intends in coming weeks to make more public what is being done to nudge the Palestinians as well.

A White House statement said Obama “reiterated his unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, and reiterated his commitment to working to achieve Middle East peace.”

Ben-Ami said that he believed that President Obama was asserting positions aimed at achieving two states for two peoples, a stance he claimed is supported by the majority of the Jewish community in the United States that voted for Obama.

Meanwhile, Netanyahu met with the Quartet’s Middle East envoy Tony Blair on Monday to discuss ways to improve the Palestinian economy. Netanyahu told Blair that the West Bank’s Palestinian residents could achieve more if they were to increase their cooperation with Israel.

{Haaretz Service/Yair Alpert-Matzav.com Israel}


  1. mr obama just take a look in your mirror and what do you see i hope you see your own reflection do not look so mush in to israel reflection other wise you will end up looking at no reflection just like jimmy carter did so obama do not be so help full, all off the land belongs to israel

  2. Sounds like OBAMA needs to self-reflect and monitor what are his true aspirations towards the Middle East. Israel has continoulsly self-reflected for the last 60 years and still has not come to an unanimous decision that there are NO PARTNERS FOR PEACE.

  3. Last I checked Obama is not Israeli and his name is not spelled Barak rather Barack – but as I understand it its a common mistake.