Obama, Clinton call on US Jews, Muslims to back talks

Rabbis: US president indicated that understood recent Palestinian statements threatening to quit the peace process as political posturing.

Barack Obama 311 (photo credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Barack Obama 311
(photo credit: AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
WASHINGTON – US President Barack Obama indicated he understood recent Palestinian statements threatening to quit the peace process and rejecting compromise as political posturing, according to rabbis on a White House conference call Tuesday.
Obama, who spoke with rabbis of various denominations in a call marking Rosh Hashanah, was asked by a participant about comments from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas perceived in Israel as hostile to the negotiating process he launched with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu just last Thursday.
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In response, Obama said that he expected both Israelis and Palestinians throughout the process to make statements meant for domestic political consumption, call participants told The Jerusalem Post.
Obama urged those on the line to instead focus on the positive atmosphere during last week’s talks, admitting to being pleasantly surprised by how candid and constructive they were.
“I don’t know if he was expecting them to come in and beat each other with baseball bats, but he made a point of saying that twice,” said one participant.
Obama also reportedly praised Netanyahu during the call for his approach to the talks.
Still, Obama was said to sound a cautious note about the negotiations and the difficulties ahead.
“Overall there was a very realistic, not at all naïve assessment of the situation,” said one person on the call.
Another rabbi described Obama as clear-eyed in acknowledging the challenges ahead, and that “he didn’t sugar-coating anything.”
That rabbi, who like all participants contacted by the Post asked for anonymity in discussing the details of the call, said that Obama also asked for the support of Jewish leaders going forward with the peace process.
“He was saying it in the sense of trying to create an atmosphere where people could be hopeful and can be optimistic about the talks’ success,” explained another participant.
Similar sentiments were also expressed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at an Iftar dinner at the US State Department Tuesday night.
“Peace needs champions on every street corner and around every kitchen table, and not just there, but everywhere,” she said. “So I hope that we at these tables and at similar tables everywhere where people are meeting in the spirit of Ramadan to break-fast, we will reflect on how we each can demonstrate that a different future is possible, a future built on the universal human values of mutual respect and inclusion.”
At the same time, US Vice President Joe Biden hosted a Rosh Hashanah reception for Jewish leaders in Washington as well as many members of the Jewish community from his home state, Delaware, at his residence.
The White House has not released any official information on Obama’s call or confirmed the statements Obama reportedly made.