Obama Assures US Jews on Israel

US President Barack Obama has assured the leaders of 16 American Jewish groups about America’s unbreakable relations with Israel, asserting that he is applying equal pressure on Arab countries and Palestinian leaders to achieve peace.

"The President could not have been clearer that his primary motivation in seeking to re-energize an Israeli-Palestinian peace process is Israel’s long-term security," said Jason Isaacson, director of government and international affairs at the American Jewish Committee, told Haaretz on Tuesday, July 14.

Obama met Monday, July 13, with 15 American Jewish leaders at the White House for the first time to clear the air following accusations that he was taking a tough line with Israel over settlement construction.

The US president assured them that he wants to help Israel overcome its demographic problem by reaching an agreement on a two-state solution.

He brushed off claims he was applying pressures only on Israel.

"The president acknowledged there’s certainly a perception problem that the US is pressing Israel and not the other side," Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union told the Jerusalem Post.

"It’s important that he acknowledged that reality."

Rabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, said Obama asserted he was pressing the Palestinians and Arabs as well.

Among the groups attending were the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the National Jewish Democratic Council, the United Jewish Communities, the Union for Reform Judaism and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

Settlement Agreement

Obama also reassured the American Jewish leaders about differences with Israel over the issue of settlement building.

"The president said that the gaps are narrowing and he did allude to progress and his hope that an agreement would be reached," said Jeremy Ben-Ami, executive director of J Street, a pro-Israel lobby group in Washington.

"He definitely alluded to that."

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents, agreed.

"He said that there is more progress than appears in the negotiations and spoke quite positively of the tracks between Mitchell and Barak and between the two administrations."

Hoenlein added that Obama indicated that "there might be some opening for an understanding between the two parties."

The Obama administration has repeatedly asked Israel to halt all settlement activity in order to re-launch peace talks with the Palestinians.

However, Israeli Premier Netanyahu his rejected such calls and said Israel would continue to expand settlements.

Israel’s mass-circulation daily Maariv reported last week that Barak and Michel reached an understanding allowing Israel to go ahead with ongoing settlements expansion projects.

(IslamOnline.net and Agencies)

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