Obama Tells Jewish Leaders He Will Ask Both Sides To Jumpstart Peace Process

President Briefs American Groups Ahead of Israel Trip

Jewish Briefing: President Obama briefed Jewish leaders on his plans to push both sides for peace progress during his upcoming trip to the Middle East.
getty images
Jewish Briefing: President Obama briefed Jewish leaders on his plans to push both sides for peace progress during his upcoming trip to the Middle East.

By Nathan Guttman

Published March 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share

On his upcoming visit to Israel, President Obama will tell Israelis that “both sides have an obligation” to return to long frozen negotiations to resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict, according to Jewish leaders who met with Obama Thursday.

The construction, if accurate, is notable as it varies somewhat from the government of Israel’s stance that it is the Palestinian Authority that is refusing to meet with Israel. Participants in the meeting, who did not themselves call attention to this construction, cautioned that they were relating the president’s words from memory and had not taken notes at the meeting.

At the White House meeting with members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations and several other activists, Obama made clear that he is not coming to the region with a specific peace plan and will not present new ideas. But Obama intends to speak to the Israeli public about the importance of reaching a peace agreement. He also said that he will stress in his centerpiece speech, which will take place at the Jerusalem convention center, that more important than wanting peace is “what are you willing to do for peace,” a meeting participant related.

Negotiations have been frozen for three years now as Israel has insisted on its right to continue to expand exclusively Jewish settlements in the West Bank during these talks, just as the Palestinians have insisted that this expansion must cease for talks to resume.

A White House official said following the meeting that Obama “noted that the trip is not dedicated to resolving a specific policy issue, but is rather an opportunity to consult with the Israeli government about a broad range of issues - including Iran, Syria, the situation in the region, and the peace process.”

In his conversation with the Jewish representatives, Obama acknowledged that there is concern in Europe over the lack of progress in peace talks and that some fear this might lead the Palestinians to try other options in their quest for independence. Obama called on Israel to help support P.A leaders Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad and spoke about their achievements in advancing the Palestinian Authority.

The conversation was off the record and reports on Obama’s remarks are based on recollections of several participants.

On the Iranian issue Obama made clear he understands Israel’s concerns and sought to reassure his listeners that there are no major differences between Washington and Jerusalem on the need to prevent Iran from becoming nuclear. The President noted he believes the window for diplomacy is still open. Asked about differences between his approach and that of Israel, Obama, according to participants, said the differences are minor and relate only to the interpretation of shared intelligence regarding the question when will the window for diplomacy close. He added jokingly that greater differences exist within Israel’s security establishment.

Responding to a question about the need for tougher rhetoric against Iran, the president called on all sides to try and understand the Iranian perception of reality and to avoid “extra chest beating.” He quoted an ancient Chinese proverb which speaks of the importance of “building your enemy a golden bridge” so he can use it to retreat.

Participants reported that the meeting was conducted in good spirits and that Obama listened patiently to advice from Jewish leaders regarding his visit, including a suggestion that he take time during his trip to meet with former Israeli POW Gilad Shalit.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.