FORT LEE, N.J. — Two of the fifteen rabbis invited to the White House by White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for a pair of closed-door meetings regarding the administration’s relationship with Israel and the American Jewish community reported that no apologies were given for administration dealings with Israel and that new Iran sanctions were awaiting Russian and Chinese support.
Rabbi Jack Moline of Virginia and Rabbi Efrem Goldberg of Florida made their remarks in a recent interview with Shalom TV president Mark S. Golub that will be aired on Sunday, May 30. Both Moline and Goldberg characterized the purpose of the meetings as an opportunity to “get some facts on the ground straight, to understand what the [U.S. Middle East] policies have been and what direction they’re going in, and to open channels of communication.” In addition to Emanuel, the Obama administration was represented by Dennis Ross, who heads up Iran policy, Dan Shapiro, deputy national security adviser supervising policy for Israel and its neighbors, and Susan Sher, chief White House liaison to the Jewish community.
The two men countered published reports that apologies were offered by the administration for its current relationship with Israel and U.S. Jewry, with Goldberg revealing that “it was less a question of an apology than it was a clarification and a renewed effort to improve on the messaging.”
Moline, who was asked by Emanuel to organize the meeting and select the group of rabbis to attend, acknowledged in an email that he circulated after the summit that the guest list included only those who had supported Obama’s election or, as Moline put it, “people who had been positively predisposed to President Obama once the election was over, but found themselves troubled by what had transpired over the subsequent year.”
On Middle East policy, specifically the delay in announcing new sanctions on Iran, Moline told Golub that the administration expressed concern that if they went ahead without “international cooperation, including with Russia and China, [then] the rest of the world is going to throw up their hands and say, ‘The United States is handling it and we don’t have to worry about Iran at all.’ The president wants an international coalition in the United Nations to validate sanctions before the United States takes unilateral action. That’s the policy approach.”
But some wondered about that approach and pointed out factual errors in the administration’s position.
In response to Moline’s email summary of the meeting in which he stated that “two years ago, Mr. Emanuel said, the U.S. was virtually isolated in the Middle East and Iran enjoyed the sympathy of much of the world. Today that situation is reversed,” Jennifer Rubin, contributing editor of Commentary magazine and chief blogger of its website “Contentions,” wrote “It’s false that Iran enjoyed the sympathy of the world or that the U.S. was isolated in the Middle East. For starters, we had a warm and robust relationship with Israel. And we had useful dealings with many of the moderate states, including Jordan, which was not induced by the president to issue provocative statements about Israel.”
Likewise, on her blog, Rubin goes on to counter many of Emanuel’s and Ross’ statements, as relayed by Moline.
For example, in response to Ross’ assertion that “There has been no change in U.S. policy toward Israel in the United Nations,” Rubin notes that “We failed to veto an anti-Israel resolution. We joined the Israel-bashing Human Rights Council and let Israel’s prime antagonist onto the Commission on the Status of Women. And we apparently told the Palestinians that we wouldn’t veto a future resolution of condemnation if Israel continued to build in its eternal capital.”
Speaking to Golub, Goldberg, spiritual leader of the Modern Orthodox Boca Raton Synagogue, noted that insight into American foreign policy was wholly separate from discovering the administration’s feeling about Israel. At the close of the meeting he described himself as “cautiously optimistic,” but was still concerned with the course of action the administration seemed intent on taking vis a vis the Mid East.
“I went in with anxieties and with concerns and I left with anxieties and concerns, but I gained a tremendous respect for the administration’s genuine commitment to Israel.,” he says
The full text of Jennifer Rubin’s blog can be seen at www.commentarymagazine.com/blogs.