|MEETING AT THE WHITE HOUSE|
Subject: Meeting at the White House
From: Janice Weinman
Sent: Friday, March 08, 2013 9:31 AM
Yesterday, I attended a meeting at the White House in which the President shared with leadership from 20 organizations plans for his trip to Israel. The purpose of the meeting was to receive input and to consider suggestions regarding his message and the trip’s outcomes. Marcie asked me to share with you the content from that meeting.
The President was accompanied at the meeting by Valerie Jarrett and Zachary Kelley, his new White House liaison to the Jewish community. Among the organizations that attended were AIPAC, AJC, NCJW, J Street, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations,The Jewish Federations of North America and JCPA.
The meeting lasted for an hour and a half and, to facilitate the opportunity for input, we all sat at one table. The President was frank, clear and strategic and outlined both his impressions of the situation in the Middle East as well as his intentions for the trip.
He reiterated five points with regard to U.S./Israeli relations:
O There is an iron clad commitment to Israel by the United States;
O There is recognition at the White House that a tough neighborhood has gotten tougher, including new conditions regarding Egypt, Syria, Iran, Lebanon and that there is a need to underscore the importance of Israeli’s security during these uncertain times;
O With regard to the threat of Iran’s nuclear program, no options are off the table;
O The resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is important but the Administration would not support any end runs around Israel in the process; and
O The progress that Israel has made economically and in technology is a testament to the enduring spirit of the country and deserves recognition.
With regard to the purpose of the trip, he indicated that:
O He was not going to the Middle East with a grand peace plan in his pocket. He felt that it was premature to do that, given the need for conversations first with the players under current circumstances;
O He wanted to get an on the ground sense of the turmoil in the region, particularly with regard to Syria; and
O He wanted to communicate directly with the Israeli people.
While the President’s schedule is still being formulated he will be meeting with the Prime Minister, the President, he will be visiting Ramallah and he will be making a sizeable speech at the Convention Center to students. There was a strong push for him to visit the Knesset where the number and percentage of women representatives has dramatically increased and to meet with Galit Shalit as a gesture to the Israelis that we care about what happens to those who are in harms way. As you already know from Marcie, outreach is still being made to Ambassadors Oren and Shapiro,to Representatives Schumer and Lowey, with the White House itself and the National Security Council for him to visit HMO. In that context, I pointed outat the meeting that the President consider not only the economic consequencesof Israel’s technological advancements but the humanitarian ones, citing the work Israel has done in Haiti, Africa andthrough HMO in the region.
The discussion ranged from the threats of Turkey to that of Iran to the fears of Hezbolah both in the Middle East and in Europe. The President spoke eloquently about the balances that need to be weighed with regard to Turkey as a NATO ally vs. a provocateur and with regard to Hamas vs. Fatah.
In summary, the meeting was highly interactive and positive with everyone together considering how to make this visit a productive one. And, there was a strong affirmation by the President of his recognition that the Israelis desire peace, that we share common values, and that there is a strong need to diminish the growing isolation that the Israelis arecurrently feeling.