(April 16, 2019 / JNS) The Trump administration held a closed-door meeting with more than 70 Jewish and pro-Israel leaders at the White House on Tuesday ahead of the highly-anticipated public release of the administration’s Mideast peace plan between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
The meeting was “a feel-good thing” where the administration’s support for Israel was celebrated, an attendee told JNS.
U.S. Ambassador Ron Dermer said that he is not afraid of the peace proposal, saying that “we know we have a friend here” at the White House in U.S. President Donald Trump.
“I know a lot of people are concerned that the peace plan is going to be coming out soon,” said Dermer, reported Jewish Insider. “But I have to say, as Israel’s ambassador, I am confident that this administration — given its support for Israel — will take Israel’s vital concerns into account in any plan they will put forward.”
“I will never blame any American president or secretary of state or envoy for the failure to achieve peace — anyone who does that doesn’t understand why we don’t have peace. The Palestinians have to cross the Rubicon. It’s going to be up to them,” he added. “But what you can be is better or worse facilitators to get them to that point. And I could not think of better facilitators, with better relations both with Israel and the Arab world, to take advantage of this historic opportunity. I know that you all join me in wishing the best for the initiative that will come in the weeks and months ahead.”
The administration’s accomplishments have included recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and relocating the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv in May 2018, the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal as well as both reimposed and fresh sanctions against Tehran; and recognizing last month Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
In attendance from the administration were U.S. Special Envoy for International Negotiations Jason Greenblatt, U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism Elan Carr and deputy assistant to the president Avi Berkowitz, according to two people who were in the room, who said Greenblatt and Berkowitz did not address the audience.
In addition to talking about the Trump administration’s fight against Jew hatred, Carr announced that he will travel to Eastern Europe and the United Kingdom after Passover. Anti-Semitism has been on the rise throughout Europe.
The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The meeting did not consist of a question-and-answer session, according to an attendee, who mentioned that afterward there was a reception with kosher-for-Passover food.
The leaven-free holiday begins at sundown on Friday and ends at nightfall on April 27.
However, the meeting was criticized for not including major non-Orthodox Jewish groups, such as those representing Reform, Constructionist and the Conservative movements, although, a Washington, D.C. area Conservative rabbi was invited. Also not invited were the Anti-Defamation League and other liberal organizations such as J Street.
“Tonight, President Trump convened a narrow portion of the Jewish community viewed as his political allies at the White House,” the Jewish Democratic Council of America wrote on Facebook. “Since 79% of Jews supported Democrats in the last election, Trump has apparently closed the door to Jewish organizations, denominations and movements representing the overwhelming majority of the Jewish electorate.”
Ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, a coalition of 20 pro-Israel organizations sent a joint letter on Tuesday to Trump, asking him to let Israel decide on sovereignty.
This was in response to nine Jewish groups calling on the president on Friday to stop Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was re-elected to a record fifth term last week, from carrying out his campaign promise to annex parts of the West Bank.
In reiterating Netanyahu’s pledge, Tuesday’s letter to Trump stated, “Throughout your presidency, you have done everything possible to keep your own campaign promises — with the move of the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, pledged by every President since Bill Clinton, being a prime example.”
“It is unfair and unreasonable to hold these Jewish communities hostage to the continuing intransigence of the Palestinian Authority,” added the letter. “And it is outrageous to suggest setting policy to kowtow to the anti-Semitic, terrorist-financed effort to boycott the world’s only Jewish state.”
Signatories on the new letter included the Endowment for Middle East Truth, the Rabbinical Alliance of America, the Republican Jewish Coalition, the Zionist Organization of America and Turning Point USA.