'Obama must do more to mend ties'

Top Jewish leader Hoenlein says Washington must address apparent crisis.

By HILARY LEILA KRIEGER
March 29, 2010 19:38
3 minute read.
Malcolm Hoenlein.

malcolm hoenlein 311. (photo credit: .)

BOSTON – A top Jewish leader on Monday urged the Obama administration to do more to push back against negative aspersions about the Jewish community and the state of the US-Israel relationship in the wake of recent tensions between the two countries.

“The outward appearances have been perceived and described in much of the media in very negative terms, and I would hope that’s something the administration would address,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

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He pointed to recent accusations of dual loyalty against Dennis Ross, a key adviser to US President Barack Obama on Middle East issues, who is Jewish, and the erroneous reports in the blogosphere that top US General David Petraeus said US ties to Israel were costing American soldiers their lives.

“It would be very unfortunate if this is allowed to fester,” Hoenlein said. “I would hope they would take advantage of every opportunity to set the record straight.” He also expressed his hope that the administration would put in perspective recent developments concerning the US-Israel relationship, which he described as less frayed than has been portrayed, as well as the need to call Palestinians to account for not entering negotiations.

He said his sense was that the administration wants to “calm it down” and “put this behind them.” On Sunday, senior Obama adviser David Axelrod told CNN that “no snub” was intended of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu when he visited the White House Tuesday under a total media blackout.

“This was not about a ceremonial meeting,” he said. “This was a working meeting,” adding, “Israel is a close, dear and valued friend of the US, a great ally. That is an unshakeable bond. But sometimes part of friendship is expressing yourself bluntly.”

At the same time, a piece in Politico this weekend also quoted a US official as saying of Ross: “He seems to be far more sensitive to Netanyahu’s coalition politics than to US interests... he doesn’t seem to understand that this has become bigger than Jerusalem, but is rather about the credibility of this Administration.”

The publication also reported NSC Chief of Staff Denis McDonough fiercely rejecting the insinuations. “The assertion is as false as it is offensive,” McDonough emailed Politico Sunday. “Whoever said it has no idea what they are talking about. Dennis Ross’s many decades of service speak volumes about his commitment to this country and to our vital interests, and he is a critical part of the President’s team.”

On Sunday, the Conference of Presidents put out a statement on the occasion of Pessah stressing the main points of confluence in the US-Israel relationship and the strong security, research and economic ties between them.

The statement welcomed “the clarification by General David Petraeus in which he thoroughly denied the reports attributed to him regarding the consequences of the strong relationship between the US and Israel. The mischaracterization of his position has been exploited by those seeking to undermine the relationship between allies.”

But, the conference wrote, “Unfortunately, a number of reports have circulated recently with the apparent intention of driving a wedge between the US and Israel. There have been many misreports and mischaracterizations that serve only to embolden both the enemies of the US and Israel as well as of peace.”

Instead, Hoenlein and conference chairman Alan Solow wrote, “The US and Israel should work together to strengthen the relationship that is essential to both countries and the region.”


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