I’ve been waiting years for this to happen. Barack Obama for the first time in his administration met with the leaders of fourteen Jewish organizations including Peace Now, J Street and Israeli Policy Forum in order to reassure American Jewish leaders that his settlement freeze policy was ultimately “good for Israel.” When it came time to take questions, the most hostile ones came from Malcolm Hoenlein, resident nyetnik of the Conference of Presidents. Here’s how the N.Y. Times described the encounter:
…Some of the toughest questioning of Mr. Obama came from Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations…Mr. Hoenlein told the president that diplomatic progress in the Middle East has traditionally occurred when there is “no light” between the positions of the United States and Israel. But Mr. Obama pushed back, citing the administration of his predecessor, George W. Bush.
“He said, ‘I disagree,’ ‘’ said Marla Gilson, director of the Washington action office of Hadassah, the women’s Zionist organization. “He said, ‘For eight years, there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished.’
For far too long Hoenlein’s narischkeit has passed for commonly accepted pro-Israel wisdom in our community. Finally, finally a president is pushing back. Malcom Hoenlein no longer owns the discourse. There Shehecheyanu prayer says: “Thank God who has kept me alive and allowed me to reach this day.” Amen to that.
It’s interesting that Haaretz reporter Barak Ravid’s report of the meeting listed the attendees and included no mention of the Jewish peace groups I listed above. This speaks volumes for certain elements of the establishment Jewish press (or at least reporters like Ravid) who haven’t yet rolled over and heard the news that the old days of hard-right pro-Israel groups representing the “entire” Jewish people are over. There are a few new kids on the block. Obama himself knows and understands this, which is why he invited them. Some journalists are slow to catch on.
Richard, the shorter Hebrew version in Haaretz did have J-Street and Peace Now. And Jeremy Ben Ami is listed as quoting what Obama said in the longer English version. I think the longer English version may have been updated to reflect the ongoing leaks from the meeting.
בפגישה עם אובמה השתתפו נציגים של הלובי היהודי “איפא”ק” וכן של ארגון ועידת הנשיאים, איחוד הקהילות היהודיות וכן של ארגון ג'יי-סטריט ושלום עכשיו בארה”ב. בסך הכל השתתפו שם 16 מנהיגים מ-14 ארגונים שונים.
מנכ”ל ג'יי-סטריט ג'רמי בן-עמי אמר בסיום הפגישה כי “אני סבור שהנשיא אובמה נוקט בעמדות שמטרתן השגת שתי מדינות לשני עמים וזו העמדה שזוכה לתמיכה של הרוב המכריע של הקהילה היהודית בארה”ב שהצביעה עבורו”.
Richard Silverstein says
Damn, I keep forgetting that some of what may appear to be deliberate on the part of journalists actually reflects to vagaries of Haaretz.com shortening their longer & more comprehensive Hebrew versions of stories. Thanks for correcting me.
Did Hoenlein not get TIP's “Ethnic Cleansing of West Bank Settlements” memo?
Obama is the man.
The settlement policy is THE indicator of Israel's intent, whether it intends to and does expand (slowly but in a one-way heart valve), or intends to co-exist.
It would be wonderful if the compliance with the road map were voluntary and unilateral. (“We keep our commitments”, rather than “we rationalize every way that we can to avoid keeping our commitments”.)
So, in that sense it is sad that it takes Obama's backbone to commit Israel to do what it agreed. But, it does describe an ENORMOUS contrast between Obama and Bush.
Obama to U.S. Jewish leaders: Israel must engage in self-reflection
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and Reuters
Tags: Barak Obama, Israel News
U.S. President Barack Obama met with 15 American Jewish leaders at the White House for the first time on Monday. 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.”
The other significance of the settlements, is that they are the tipping issue as whether the Arab world can start to proceed on normalization with Israel, even exploratory steps.
It took the US asserting that it will compel all sides to abide by international law, including the defense of the sovereign Israel (and civilians), in order for the confidence in the agreements to be of more than words.
Thank you Obama. Stick with it.
It's good to hear Obama said that Israel needs some self-reflection.
Is this site for real? Jews in seperate political camps? Say it aint so Schlomo…..
A Jew is a Jew is a Jew is a Jew and finally a friggen Jew. Our party just loves you folks with that 80% voting record. Thank you for making Obama happen.
I hope that will be followed by cancelling the F-22 and F-35 orders. Why give a crack junkie more?
Doni Remba says
Hi Richard, Please note that Israel Policy Forum was not among the groups invited or attending the meeting with Obama. Best, Doni Remba
Richard Silverstein says
Thanks for the correction. I wonder why that happened.
Doni Remba says
They also did not include Brit Tzedek. I think the intent was to keep it intimate, and by exlcuding a couple of the major left-of-center groups, it counterbalanced (and enabled them to justify exluding) the two right-wing groups who were also not invited (ZOA and National Council of Young Israel).
Richard Silverstein says
Frankly, I could understand excluding Brit Tzedek because I don’t find their work as energetic and visible in the political debate. But leaving out IPF was foolish. But I do understand the tactic.
Hugh Diditt says
Have Zionist special interests transformed our fourth estate into their fifth column? Of this there is no doubt. The only real question is: How long will it take Americans to become aware of the degree to which they have been played by Israel, and how much it is costing us to support Zionist lies and evil.
Here is the most elegant definition of evil I have come across.
“Evil: Domination of those who do not wish to be dominated.”
By this measure, it is inadequate to merely identify the ongoing brutality against the Palestinians as an acting-out by the Jews, much like an abused child may express his sense of violation by bullying and abusing a smaller child at school the next day. If you are an American Jew who aspires to an ethics that qualifies as human, then to be an apologist for Jewish hysteria on this issue is no longer adequate. As Americans we have got to take a long hard–dispassionate–look in the mirror, and ask if we can afford to continue pretending we are somehow absolved of any responsibility for the actions of those who have found political power only because, as voters we were never offered a meaningful choice in candidates, and none of the issues that are pertinent to the roots of the cycles of crises were ever addressed. This same evil media control precludes the political ascension of anyone or thing that is not an insider, who is not for all practical purposes part-of-the-problem. Our mass media is so debased that it functions as a fifth column for special interests–counter to the public interest. Though this state of affairs is nothing new, there are new people coming along all the time. If for whatever insane reason, one of them wishes to become even just a wee bit free of self-destructive and crippling views, they must travel a hundred billion light years through a sucking swamp just to get to the point were they would start out, on any sane planet. This state of affairs is largely due to the contrived affects of mass media, whether it be through religious dogma, government propaganda, or haute coulture. Rather than acting as a bulwark for our rights, they divert our perception and energies with an endless run of spawning red herring. With a little luck (and near total control of the mass media) they will be able to keep the public entirely catatonic while the last vestiges of our liberties and real wealth bleed-out, onto America’s streets, which have been charmingly, if frustratingly, newly-indifferent, for the past two hundred and fifty years or so.