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lauder 224.88.(Photo by: AP)
Lauder hopes Obama changes ME policy
Writes open letter expressing concern about US-Israel relations.
Officials close to Ronald Lauder, the World Jewish Congress president who on Thursday published an open letter to President Barack Obama protesting the “dramatic deterioration of diplomatic relations between the United States and Israel,” said Thursday that Lauder’s hope was that Obama would personally read the letter and respond effectively.

Lauder’s letter, which concluded with a plea to the president “to end our public feud with Israel and to confront the real challenges that we face together,” appeared Thursday as a paid advertisement in The Jerusalem Post, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.

A source close to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Thursday said Lauder told Netanyahu that he would be putting out a statement in support of Israel and Jerusalem, although “the first we saw of the statement itself was when it was published in the newspapers. Neither the prime minister nor any of his people were involved in the drafting of the text.” Lauder was reported by The New York Times as having discussed the letter with Netanyahu and received his support.

The theme of Lauder’s message related to US-Israel ties in the Obama era.

“Why does the thrust of this administration’s Middle East rhetoric seem to blame Israel for the lack of movement on peace talks?” he asked. “After all, it is the Palestinians, not Israel, who refuse to negotiate.”

Lauder noted that Israel had made “unprecedented concessions. It has enacted the most far reaching West Bank settlement moratorium in Israeli history. Israel has publicly declared support for a two-state solution. Conversely, many Palestinians continue their refusal to even acknowledge Israel’s right to exist.”

The WJC president argued that the root cause of the conflict “has always been the Palestinian refusal to accept Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people.  Every American president who has tried to broker a peace agreement has collided with that Palestinian intransigence, sooner or later. Recall President Clinton’s anguish when his peace proposals were bluntly rejected by the Palestinians in 2000,” Lauder urged. “Settlements were not the key issue then. They are not the key issue now.”

The letter went on to ask Obama to clarify whether the US remained committed “to a final status agreement that provides defensible borders for Israel.”

Or was it the case, he asked, that a new course was being charted “that would leave Israel with the indefensible borders that invited invasion prior to 1967?” He also asked how Washington would respond to any unilateral Palestinian declaration of independent statehood.

Noting the administration’s move toward improved relations with the Muslim world, he wondered whether “friction with Israel” was part of this new strategy. “Is it assumed worsening relations with Israel can improve relations with Muslims?  History is clear on the matter: Appeasement does not work. It can achieve the opposite of what is intended.”

Finally, Lauder urged Obama to focus on the threat of a nuclear armed Iran. “Israel is not only America’s closest ally in the Middle East, it is the one most committed to this administration’s declared aim of ensuring Iran does not get nuclear weapons,” he wrote.
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