(Washington, D.C. - March 1) Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life Vice-Chair Stephen M. Greenberg joined with fellow leaders of the Conference of Presidents in a meeting with President Barack Obama at the White House to discuss U.S.-Israel relations, ongoing changes in the Middle East and other issues.
"I came away from the meeting impressed by the president's commitment to Israel's safety and security," says Greenberg. "He gave us a full hour of his time, listened carefully to our concerns and responded thoughtfully."
The 50-person delegation, led by Conference of Presidents Chairman Alan Solow and Executive Vice Chairman Malcolm Hoenlein, also met with David S. Cohen, the Department of Treasury's Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence regarding sanctions against Iran; Dennis Ross, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for the Central Region and Daniel B. Shapiro, Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa at the National Security Council, who addressed issues relating to Middle East peace; and with Republican and Democratic congressional leaders including House Speaker John Boehner, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.
During the almost one-hour session, President Obama addressed issues including the recent veto of the anti-Israel resolution at the United Nations Security Council, the ongoing changes taking place in the Middle East and prospects of peace between Israel and its neighbors. He then fielded questions from the leaders.
Following the meeting with the President, Mr. Solow and Mr. Hoenlein said, "Contrary to certain public reports, the meeting was conducted in an atmosphere of warmth, friendship and openness and there was no expression of hostility toward Israel or its government. In fact, the President stated his unequivocal support for the strong relationship and the unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel and his personal commitment to working with Israel in these challenging times. He expressed understanding for Israel's needs and said the United States had no better friend in the world, noting the shared values that are at the core of both nations."
"He acknowledged the wide range of opinion within the American Jewish community and the possibility that not all of those present would agree with each of his tactical decisions. The President articulated his expectations of all parties with respect to the Middle East peace process. The President underscored the unprecedented security cooperation with and support for Israel. He asserted his commitment to maintaining Israel's qualitative edge and to sustaining foreign aid to Israel. The President asserted that efforts to delegitimize Israel would be met with a firm response."
"We greatly value the President spending an hour to engage in dialogue with our community's leaders and the ongoing close working relationship with the Administration. We look forward to future opportunities to hear from the President and exchange views," said Solow and Hoenlein.
"We appreciate the extraordinary session we had with President Obama today during which we were able to engage in an open dialogue relating to issues of concern to the Jewish community. The President reaffirmed his deep commitment to Israel's security and set out his view as to how the United States can promote the values it shares with Israel as the region undergoes change. The open lines of communication with President Obama and his Administration are highly valued and provide us with the opportunity to articulate the views of American Jewry on issues that face our country."
They added, "The strong bipartisan support for strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship in all its aspects was evident from the meetings with the congressional leaders. They also spoke of concerns regarding the U.N. continuing to single out Israel in one-sided resolutions, the status of foreign aid to Israel and other countries, and other issues on the congressional agenda. We believe that the discussions are of great importance to inform the leadership of our member organizations, and have the leaders of our country hear their perspectives and concerns."