TY: What kind of
JB: One is Malcolm Hoenlein's, and he's said this publicly, that he feels that history shows us that progress is made on the peace front
when Israel and the U.S. are in lockstep and there's no daylight between them
on their position publicly. And the president said 'With all due respect, I
would disagree. For eight years under the prior administration, there was no
daylight between the two sides and there was no progress on the peace front, and
no hard decisions were confronted, no progress was made.' He very politely, but
very clearly, disagrees with the notion that there shouldn't be a public space between
the Israeli government's and the U.S. government's position. I think
that's a very important point.
And the second example would be a question of tone, where
there are those in the room who would say that the president has been one-sided in
his demands. And that he is only asking things of Israel, and the president
really again pushed back, very calmly but firmly, and said no, that he has on
every occasion, where he has spoken out publicly, and where the [U.S.] government
has taken a position, made it clear that there are obligations and steps that must
be taken by Israel, and obligations and steps that must be taken by Palestinians
and the broader Arab community. If we're going to make progress, both sides
have to live up to commitments and both sides have to take some steps.
TY: Was anyone who
disagreed with the President tense or annoyed at all? Was anyone muttering
under his breath?
JB: I felt none of that. The majority of the people in the room
are folks who were supportive of the president's campaign. There were people in
there who were lay leaders of organizations that are very supportive publicly
of the president. People in the room who have had long relationships -- not me
-- but people in the room who have long relationships with him, so it sort of
set a tone of congeniality. So you know, even within the top leadership of the
Jewish community, there are those like Eric Yoffie, on behalf of the Reform
movement, who just come right out and say 'we are deeply supportive of what you're
trying to do on settlements.' You got that tone in the room.
TY: What was it like to
be in the room with so many right-wing leaders? Was anyone resentful of your
JB: Certainly none of our inter-community discussions entered
the room. It was not the place or time to be airing that out in front of the
president. Statements made were of people's positions. The president got to
hear a diversity of opinions that are held by Jewish Americans when it comes to
There are some in the community who'd like to maintain that the Jewish community
should speak with a unified voice on all things related to Israel. That simply
isn't possible when there are serious disagreements within the community.