News / USA

Obama to Address Jewish Group on Israel, Mideast Peace

President Barack Obama on Friday delivers an address to an American Jewish group in Washington likely to focus on the U.S. relationship with Israel and his administration's efforts to move the Israel-Palestinian peace process forward.  He is expected to reaffirm strong support for Israel, which Republican presidential candidates have questioned in recent weeks.

Mr. Obama's speech to the Union of Reform Judaism comes at a delicate time for Mideast diplomacy, and as he tries to solidify support among American Jewish voters for his re-election in 2012.

Efforts with international partners to get Israel and Palestinians back to direct negotiations are apparently making little progress.  Republican presidential candidates, meanwhile, have escalated their attacks on the president's Mideast policies.

Last week, Republican hopefuls used appearances before a conservative Republican Jewish organization to accuse Mr. Obama of mis-treating Israel, and mis-handling strategy on Iran's nuclear program.  

Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, the current Republican front-runner, said "This one-sided continuing pressure that says it is always Israel's fault, no matter how bad the other side is, has to stop."

That is not, in fact, how the administration has pursued efforts to bring Israelis and Palestinians back to direct talks, but such remarks can gain significant political traction, especially in an election year.

Friday's speech will be another opportunity for Mr. Obama to talk about what he has frequently described as "unshakeable" support for Israel, as he did at a recent White House reception for Jewish community leaders marking the Jewish Chanukah observance. "This is also a time to be grateful for our friendships, both with each other and between our nations, and that includes of course our unshakeable support and commitment to the security of the nation of Israel," he said.

While he and administration officials never fail to emphasize this commitment, critics have seized on various statements to back up their assertion that Mr. Obama is unnecessarily tough on Israel.

On Thursday, a group called the Emergency Committee for Israel, backed by leading conservative critics of Mr. Obama, published an ad in The New York Times and other major newspapers accusing him of using Israel as a "punching bag."

It listed such things as the recent remark by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who responded this way during a discussion in Washington when asked what Israel should do to move peace efforts with Palestinians forward. "Just get to the damned table.  Just get to the table," he said.

Though Panetta appeared to aim his response at both Israel and the Palestinians, critics said the remark reflected an overall tough approach Mr. Obama has applied to Israel.

Also on critic's list was the off-microphone exchange during the G-20 summit in France in which Mr. Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy aimed personal barbs at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Republican presidential candidates and many Jewish groups also criticized the U.S. ambassador to Belgium after remarks the diplomat, who is Jewish, made on the subject of anti-semitism.

Mr. Obama has returned fire, responding directly and bluntly to a charge by Republican candidate Mitt Romney that he has pursued an "appeasement" policy abroad.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Newt Gringrich's remark that the Palestinians were an "invented people."

The administration, meanwhile, continues to press both sides to get back to the negotiating table, most recently in talks in New York of the Quartet group including the U.S.,  United Nations, Russia, and European Union.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said,  "We support steps taken by both sides that make that more likely, and we oppose steps taken by either side that make it less likely, that make it harder to accomplish."

President Obama's former Mideast peace negotiator Dennis Ross, spoke recently at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy."These are two peoples, they are not going to go away, they have to co-exist.  The only way they co-exist is in two states.  So, we still have to try to find a way to get there, you still have to try to find a way to get to negotiations, because you are not going to achieve an outcome without negotiations," he said.

With his address on Friday, Mr. Obama will be trying to bolster his job approval rating among American Jews, which according to Gallup stood at 54 percent three months ago.   The president won 78 percent of the Jewish vote in the 2008 presidential election.

However, other statistics apply when it comes to his handling of U.S. - Israel relations.  A poll by the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy organization, found 53 percent of those surveyed disapproving of his performance.

You May Like

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 M by 2015

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid