President Barack Obama urged U.S. Jewish leaders to speak to their friends and colleagues in Israel and to “search your souls” over Israel's seriousness about making peace, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) reports.
In a Tuesday meeting with about 50 representatives from the Jewish community’s chief foreign policy umbrella group – the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations – Obama reiterated the U.S. commitment to Israel, according to statements from both the White House and Conference of Presidents.
Participants uniformly declined to speak on the record about the meeting in keeping with admonitions from Conference of Presidents leaders that specifics should not be discussed publicly. While there was general consistency in the reports about Obama's comments, interpretation of them varied widely.
Top leaders of the conference welcomed the meeting and noted the president's affirmation of his "deep commitment to Israel's security." Other participants echoed the upbeat line, telling JTA the meeting was positive.
But several participants at the meeting told JTA the president also implied Israel bears primary responsibility for advancing the peace process. They interpreted the president's comments either as hostile, naïve, or unsurprising.
Obama said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is eager to secure his legacy by establishing a Palestinian state and would accept a decent offer if one were on the table, according to participants.
“The Palestinians don't feel confident that the Netanyahu government is serious about territorial concessions,” the president reportedly said.
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