Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Obama says battling perception he pressures Israel more than Arabs, Palestinians

| 7 Comments


WASHINGTON -- President Obama told 16 Jewish leaders on Monday that he is battling a perception that he is pressuring Israel more than Arab nations and the Palestinians and revealed he has written to every Arab government telling them they must help the peace process.

"People were very direct with the president in expressing their views," said Alan Solow, the Chicago attorney who is the chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations after the afternoon session in the White House, Obama's first formal meeting with U.S. Jewish leadership.

Obama "placed his policies in context for people to understand why he is taking the approaches he is taking," Solow said.

The leaders from the 14 organizations invited by the White House, while united in strong support for Israel, have divisions over Obama administration policies, such as the demand he made in his June 4 speech in Cairo for a halt of Israeli settlement expansion in the Palestinian West Bank.

The contentious issue of settlements came up several times during the meeting, with some of the groups concerned that Obama was asking more from Israel than from the Arabs and Palestinians.

According to a source familiar with what occurred at the 45-minute meeting who briefed me, Obama said that he was pushing Arab and Palestinian leaders too, but the press was focused on finding divisions between the U.S. and Israel. Obama said he has created historic new credibility for the U.S. with Arab states that should not be squandered.

The White House declined to provide details of the session. It did provide a list of participants, but did not at first even disclose the event on Obama's daily schedule, which routinely notes meetings with groups.

The White House invited representatives of 14 organizations including Chicago business executive Lee Rosenberg, the president-elect of the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Of the nine Obama administration officials at the meeting, five were from Obama's core Chicago group: Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, Senior Advisors David Axelrod and Valerie Jarrett; Jewish community liaison Susan Sher, who is also the chief of staff for First Lady Michelle Obama and Tina Tchen, who runs liaison operations.

7 Comments

I watch with amazement how Obama speaks with such moral authority while the content of his positions have no moral center. Moral positions while subjective do have a hierarchy; all wrongs are not morally equivalent. Obama speaks to the Israeli's about settlements as though they are equally shameful as Hamas' charter which calls for the eradication of Israel and the killing of all Jews everywhere. Even if the settlement issue was settled the fundamental position of the Palestinian governments would still be genocide. How can Obama claim this moral equivalency? And how can he even state his position is credible if it lends itself to supporting regimes who want to commit genocide? Obama is an embarrassment to the U.S. and it's a crime that he sees himself as the new light. This will be his legacy.

"Clairty is Refreshing"
The United States and Israel are finally on the right track regarding the ability to debate the issues of a comprensive peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians.
Having the political fortitude and courage to disagree regarding settlements in occupied Palestine is being a honest friend.
Some times you have to step out side the box,this is what true leadership is about. Taking a genuine hands on approach is needed to deliver an over all peace deal in Palestine and to the rest of the Arab World.
For almost sixty years we have been in a lock step approach with Israel regarding settlements and American foriegn policy has been absent.
Of which has been a costly mistake in pursuit of peace and the quest for a tangible and a real peaceful settlement of occupied Palestine.
I applaud President Obamas approach and the ability to disagree with our allies when there is a difference of opinion.
United States foriegn policy has also been extremly costly in terms of loss of american capital,american lives and damage of american credibility. This has also been a major factor leading to erosion of support within the international community.
I have strong admiration and praise for President Obamas courage to finally give peace in the middle east a real chance of succeeding.
It is also refreshing to see our President deliver tangible results instead of lip service that we recieved for the past eight years with Forest Gump and Darth Vader in the White House!
Posted by: samg720

Oh Israel stop crying antisemitsm and start doing justice to yourself and those who hosted you in Palestine. Read the Ten Commandments and cleanse yourself from the hypocricy. The rope of time that was given to you is coming to an end. The whole human race is chosen. Remember Adam he was chosen and his children were. Now someone else is so do justice before justice is done to you.

i think it is about time that an american president is holding israel responsible for their actions and their words: they have always agreed to "stop settlements"; he is merely voicing: show me!
why then are the israelis fighting him?? - don;t they want to show the world that their words mean something?
when someone says they want to work towards peace, positive actions are shown that move towards peace;
instead it appears that israel is throwing up more roadblocks;
this makes it all that much more difficult for obama to achieve his goal to have peace betwen isarael and palestine;
please president obama, don't bend

Well done Obama you are on right track. We can't afford another 911 because of our blind support of Israel.

The Bush letter to Ariel Sharon in 2004 clearly acknowledged that the major existing settlement blocks such as Ariel and Gush Etzion will remain part of Israel in any final peace accord. Given this understanding, it is further clear that Jews have a right to have families and grow WITHIN the boundaries of these settlement blocks. That is what "natural growth" means. Recently, Mr. Netanhayu emphasized that NO NEW lands will be taken to expand the boundaries of these settlement blocks. And yet, despite all this, Mrs. Clinton seems to be closing her eyes and blocking her ears when she repeats the mantra "Stop The Settlements".

This approach by the Obama administration perpetuates the rascist Palestinian and Arab narative that denies that Jews ever had any ancient and continual connection to this land. Mr. Obama's Cairo speech feeds the Arab story that Israel was only created to releave European guilt over the Holocaust. This is rascist and wrong. It seeks to deny a people their history, a history that goes back over 3000 years, including hudreds of years of a Jewish State with two temples that were destroyed by foreigners, with ample archeological and historical evidence to back this up. This is the real injustice. And this constant denial of Jewish history is the real obstacle to peace.

"This approach by the Obama administration perpetuates the rascist Palestinian and Arab narative that denies that Jews ever had any ancient and continual connection to this land. "
How do you start a sentence calling someone racist and then establish your racism with the sentence's completion? If Israel had not established so much hate in an entire culture, maybe Moslems would be treating Israeli's as their religion dictates, with fairness. Which they have historically demonstrated.

" a history that goes back over 3000 years, including hudreds of years of a Jewish State with two temples that were destroyed by foreigners, with ample archeological and historical evidence to back this up."
And thousands of years of other people belonging to the land. You can't just pick and choose the significant portions of history. The land has been populated by many people for years and a majority of that time they were not Jewish.

"And this constant denial of Jewish history is the real obstacle to peace."
See here we can clearly see your racism. What about all of our history. You are not in the world alone, history is shared. There is no special Jewish history, there is the history of mankind of which Judaism is just one part, and you don't want to talk about that history.

I know what you are shooting for though, you want a return to Eretz Israel. That will not happen, and it scary that sort of religious zealotry is still alive and well.
Last time I heard this sort of religious fanatacism 6 million Jews died.

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on July 14, 2009 8:27 AM.

Invitees to Obama Jewish leadership meeting was the previous entry in this blog.

Sotomayor defends "wise Latina" remark; says phrase misunderstood is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.