WASHINGTON – US President Obama this week called on Jewish leaders to speak to their colleagues in Israel and to “search your souls” over Israel's seriousness about making peace, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported Wednesday.
According to participants, Obama told the Jewish leaders that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is eager to secure his legacy by establishing a Palestinian state and would accept a decent offer if one were on the table.
“The Palestinians don't feel confident that the Netanyahu government is serious about territorial concessions,” the president reportedly said.
Obama also reportedly said that the Jewish sections of Jerusalem would remain in Israeli hands as part of any peace deal, but that the Arab sections would not.
JTA reported that in an hour-long meeting at the White House Tuesday with some 50 representatives from the Jewish community’s chief foreign policy umbrella group, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Obama reiterated the US commitment to Israel.
'Worst fears about Obama confirmed.' White House meeting (Photo: Pete Souza)
The Jewish leaders noted the president's affirmation of his "deep commitment to Israel's security," according to JTA.
Several participants at the meeting told JTA that the president also implied that Israel bears primary responsibility for advancing the peace process. They interpreted the president’s comments as either hostile, naive or unsurprising.
“Many people felt that their worst fears about Obama were confirmed with respect to Israel,” one participant was quoted as saying by JTA. “They felt an enormous hostility towards Israel.”
However, other participants disagreed and said meeting was a positive one. According to JTA, they described the president as “thoughtful” and “forthcoming” in his remarks, and said no new ground was broken.
"The people who loved Obama probably still love him, the people who had big reservations about Obama probably have more reservations than they had before,” one longtime Jewish organizational official told JTA.
JTA said most agreed that the atmosphere was cordial and gracious.
“I thought he reaffirmed his support of Israel, and I thought he did it quite well,” one participant told JTA. “Nothing that he said would I interpret in any way as being anti-Israel or opposed to Israel.”
Others suggested that the president wasn't hostile so much as naive about Palestinian intentions and his belief about Israel's supposed lack of commitment to peacemaking, JTA reported. Still others suggested both interpretations were flawed.
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