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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One rabbi's account of that White House meeting

Rabbi Stuart Weinblatt was one of the fifteen rabbis who was present at that White House meeting with senior members of the Obama administration two weeks ago. He's written an account of the meeting here.
Since I had been away in Israel for the two weeks prior to our meeting and wanted to be sure that I understood the pulse of our community I had sent out an email asking people to let me know what they would want me to convey to the White House. I got an astonishing 75 responses, and remarkably, as I reported to Rahm Emanuel and Dennis Ross, there was an amazing consensus: 72 of them were critical of the Administration.

When I had my chance to speak I raised the disproportionate response of the Administration in singling Israel out for criticism and pressure while giving the Palestinians a pass. I pointed to several specific provocative acts by the Palestinians, indicative of their unrelenting hateful incitement and antagonistic hostility towards Israel and the double standard that Israel must do certain things, while the Palestinians merely need to try to live by certain commitments. In light of the denial by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority of a historic Jewish presence in the Holy Land or Jerusalem, and their having been caught numerous times in outright lies, how could Israel be expected to negotiate with them in good faith?

I reminded our hosts that when the President had thanked the nations of the world for their aid and response to the earthquake in Haiti, Israel was noticeably absent, and that his comment at a press conference about Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons could have been phrased in more reassuring terms.

In our second meeting I asked about Egypt’s push to challenge Israel’s nuclear policy, and reminded them that it is not Israel that has threatened to wipe out its neighbors. I also made reference to the poisonous atmosphere on college campuses today and finally I said that reluctantly I needed to raise, in the open and honest spirit of exchange, the fear that based on recent actions the flurry of emails that circulated in the Jewish community prior to the election questioning the President’s feelings about Israel were accurate.


Not every point we raised was addressed or answered, but the gist of administration officials’ perspective was that the problem was primarily one of messaging, and that their message was not getting out. They pointed to a number of specific actions taken by the Administration, which show an ongoing commitment to Israel’s security.


Were we convinced? Were they convinced? Time will tell. I think we are more interested in actions than promises.
And that is precisely the problem. The Obama administration is convinced that its issues with the Jewish community are issues of tone. They are not. They are issues of substance. And the administration is apparently unwilling to take any substantive actions to address them. If anything, their position seems to be more entrenched.

Two weeks ago, it was reported that Rahm Emanuel had apologized for 'screwing up the message' to the Jewish community. The source for that report was Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Boca Raton, Florida. But the Connecticut Jewish Ledger reports that Rabbi Goldberg, and Rabbi Jack Moline of Virginia, who is now Rahm Emanuel's rabbi, have contradicted that initial report.
The two men countered published reports that apologies were offered by the administration for its current relationship with Israel and U.S. Jewry, with Goldberg revealing that "it was less a question of an apology than it was a clarification and a renewed effort to improve on the messaging."
So does that mean that the rabbis 'screwed up' the transmission?

By the way, if you're a rabbi and wonder why you weren't invited, maybe this is why:
Moline, who was asked by Emanuel to organize the meeting and select the group of rabbis to attend, acknowledged in an email that he circulated after the summit that the guest list included only those who had supported Obama's election or, as Moline put it, "people who had been positively predisposed to President Obama once the election was over, but found themselves troubled by what had transpired over the subsequent year."
I wonder how many they invited who weren't troubled by the past year either.


At 10:13 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

And if Netanyahu thinks the White House's shift in tone means the heat is going to be off him, he had better reconsider that upcoming White House visit.

Obama's policy hasn't changed. Why in the world would Israel's Prime Minister want to reward it. I don't understand it, I really don't.

What could go wrong indeed

At 10:19 PM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

Great! Rabbis for Obama - or ROB.

At 11:43 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi Carl .
Strange it seems it's not only with Jewish people he takes that stand.During his visit at the solar plant in CA .All unionised workers were send home, except those who are hand picked.All the rest could stay home without pay.He has selective hearing syndrome it seems.

At 2:35 AM, Blogger Sunlight said...

Wouldn't it have been great if this Rabbi had had a ppt or even posterboards with IDF-provided specific info on rockets fired from Leb and Gaza onto civilian areas? The Rabbi could have asked Mr. Rahm why the White House has not registered a war crimes lawsuit against the people shooting rockets onto civilians... It is downright self destructive to have Israel leading the way in producing endless details about the Palestinians and nothing about their own citizens.


At 7:14 AM, Blogger yzernik said...

In public relations, this is called a non-apology apology.


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