Avoiding a showdown with Jewish American leaders fuming over the his decision to backtrack on a settlement establishing a egalitarian prayer area in the Western Wall, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu met in New York Saturday only with a select group of non-critical Jewish leaders.
The meeting, which took place Saturday evening at Netanyahu’s hotel, was attended by representatives of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, The American Jewish Committee and the Jewish Federations of North America.
Netanyahu and the Jewish leaders, in their 75-minute meeting, did not ignore the Western Wall issue, but both sides tries to put their best spin on the discussion. A source in the prime minister delegation said the atmosphere was “excellent” and that Jewish leaders wanted to “hear the prime minister clarify to American Jews what actions are being taken to establish an egalitarian prayer area.” Representatives of Jewish organizations said they felt Netanyahu gave them a better understanding of the problem and of the political and legal pressure his government is under when dealing with the Western Wall issue.
By choosing to hold the meeting in a smaller forum, Netanyahu did not have to directly confront some of the more vocal opponents of his Western Wall stance, including Conservative leaders who had sent an angry letter to Netanyahu earlier this month, complaining against his government “betrayal” of non-Orthodox denominations.
Nathan Guttman, staff writer, was the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu Meets With Jewish Leaders — Snubs Critics