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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level 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.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid