Obama, Netanyahu meeting in Washington GALLERY 465 (R) 5.
(photo credit: Avi Ohayon / GPO)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama attempted to reassure Jewish backers over
his support for Israel at a Democratic party fundraiser on Monday night,
stressing his commitment to the Jewish state even as he called for its leaders
to be open to new ways of thinking.
Referring to the changing Middle East
and the challenges it presents, Obama told a group of Democratic donors billing
themselves as Americans in Support of a Strong US-Israel Relationship that “both
the United States and Israel are going to have to look at this new landscape
with fresh eyes.”
Obama tells Jewish donors he strongly backs Israel
Our World: An Obama foreign policy
He stressed the importance of engagement and
creativity, saying, “It’s not going to be sufficient for us just to keep on
doing the same things we’ve been doing and expect somehow that things are going
to work themselves out.”
Obama acknowledged that there would likely be
“tactical disagreements” over moving forward in the next months and years, but
said these views diverged over strategy rather than principle.
those in the room, who were reported to have each contributed upwards of $25,000
to attend the sold-out event, to play a role in “helping to shape how both
Americans and Israelis think about the opportunities and challenges.” He
underscored Jews’ connection to their ancient homeland – an issue that some have
felt he has downplayed in the past – as well his administration’s strong support
He described his “most important message” of the evening as,
despite the challenges in the region, that the “one inviolable principle will be
that the United States and Israel will always be stalwart allies and friends,
that that bond isn’t breakable and that Israel’s security will always be at the
top tier of considerations in terms of how America manages its foreign
The press was escorted from the Democratic National Committee
fundraiser before the question and answer session, though Obama was heard to say
on the way out: “I purposely made those remarks short because this looks like a
pretty opinionated group.”
Obama’s remarks came as even some supporters
in the Democratic party, as well as many external critics, have questioned where
the president stands on Israel and his approach to the region. Those questions
carry political significance in the run-up to his 2012 reelection campaign and
the importance of attracting donors, particularly from the Jewish
He also spoke as his envoy to the region, David Hale, and his
top Middle East adviser, Dennis Ross, wrapped up trips seeking to prod the
Israelis and Palestinians along to talks after months of stalemate and the
prospect of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of statehood at the UN in
A senior administration official acknowledged on Tuesday that
“the difficult task of closing the gaps between the parties,” gaps he described
as “challenging,” was ongoing.
He said the US is attempting to find out
whether the elements that Obama last month laid out for overcoming the impasse
between the sides – including that the 1967 lines with mutually agreed land
swaps should form the basis of a Palestinian state’s borders – could serve as a
foundation for moving forward.
“It’s time for some tough decisions,” the
One sign of the hurdles in the peace process is that
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recently entered into a
power-sharing agreement with Hamas, a US-designated terrorist organization that
America has said Israel has no obligation to negotiate with.
official said that since the talks to form that PA government have stalled,
“right now we’re dealing with a wait-and-see attitude,” and that the US still
hopes that the two sides can make progress in the meantime.
“We will be
judging our ability to provide assistance and have a relationship with the
Palestinian government that might emerge from reconciliation based on the
composition of that government,” he said.