By Jacob Kamaras/JNS.org
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a meeting with American Jewish leaders on March 7 that he does not intend to propose a specific peace plan on his upcoming trip to Israel, according to reports that were confirmed by JNS.org.
The contents of Obama’s meeting with about 25 Jewish groups were off the record, as the White House stipulates each year for that meeting. But one participant who spoke anonymously with JNS.org confirmed the president’s message that even though he is not coming to the Middle East with a specific peace plan on this particular trip, that does not mean he cannot come up with ideas for a peace plan six, nine or 12 months from now.
Some Jewish groups did issue public statements that spoke generally to their impressions of the meeting with Obama. Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) President and CEO Jerry Silverman said in a statement that he “very much appreciated the opportunity to meet with the president about his upcoming trip to Israel and the Middle East.”
“As Jews and as Americans, we are proud to see our President visit our ancient homeland and engage with the Israeli people,” Silverman said. “The president’s trip is yet another demonstration of the continued strength of the deep and historic bonds between the United States and Israel.”
Obama during the meeting “reiterated his unshakeable support for Israel and explained that his upcoming trip will be focused on discussing with his Israeli counterparts the critical issues facing the Jewish state, including Iran, the peace process, and Syria,” National Jewish Democratic Council Chair Marc R. Stanley said in a statement.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JNS.org that he thinks Obama’s visit to Israel “will be very positive” and “will strengthen the U.S.-Israel bonds.”
Israel’s Channel 10 television network reported that Obama told Jewish leaders he is coming to the Middle East this month with a specific peace plan. Hoenlein, however, cautioned that many of the reports on Obama’s meeting with Jewish leaders were “distorted by people who are trying to push a particular agenda, and it is regrettable and not helpful to the success of the president’s very important visit.”
Hoenlein added that he felt meeting participants “should abide by the ground rules of not discussing what the President said.”
Prior White House meetings between Obama and Jewish leaders have not passed without controversy. In a March 2011 gathering with delegates of the Conference of Presidents, Obama reportedly told Jewish leaders to search their souls over Israel’s seriousness about making peace.
In May 2012, Obama did not attend the Conference of Presidents gathering at the White House because he was at the NATO Summit in Chicago the same day. That same month, however, it was reported that he attended a meeting with nine foreign policy editors—some known for being highly critical of Israel—who discussed Afghanistan, Israel, NATO and the G8 Summit at Camp David.