Fifteen rabbis go the White House for a meeting. Were the destination not the Roosevelt Room to discuss the nature of American-Israeli relations this could be the opening line of a joke with a punchline I have yet to write. But indeed it was a meeting that was taken very seriously by all who attended. My colleague and friend, Jack Moline of Alexandria, Virginia, arranged the meeting and put together a diverse representative cross-section of rabbis from across the country, from all movements and different kinds of congregations.
The most dramatic moment I’ve ever experienced at a GA (General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America) took place in 1977, in Dallas, on a Shabbat afternoon, when Golda Meir walked onto the stage for what many of the several thousand in the audience suspected might well be her last appearance in the U.S. And it was. She died in Jerusalem less than a year later.
Speaking at Monday’s Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Washington, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sounded very much like a man who didn’t want to antagonize the president he was about to meet under visibly strained circumstances.
Several hours later the White House distributed a meeting “readout” that may have set a new record for brevity. Amid an almost total clampdown on leaks, the statement said only that the two leaders “discussed a number of issues in the U.S.-Israel bilateral relationship” and that President Barack Obama “reaffirmed our strong commitment to Israel’s security, and discussed security cooperation on a range of issues.”
Tuesday, May 5th, 2009
Is the legendary AIPAC “roll call” getting old?
In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s the story: at every year’s policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, leaders of the group read out the names of all the congressional, administration and diplomatic officials attending. Reporters keep count, hometown delegations cheer for their representatives and the message has the subtlety of a good sock in the jaw: this is a lobby with real clout.
Friday, November 14th, 2008
James Besser in Washington
When Rep. Rahm Emanuel was named chief of staff to President elect Barack Obama, some predicted the volatile, outspoken lawmaker, former Bill Clinton aide and dead fish message sender would get himself in trouble with some kind of outrageous outburst.
Monday, November 10th, 2008
So what, exactly, does it mean that Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the son of an Israeli who served in the Irgun, has been named White House chief of staff under President-elect Barack Obama?
It means a lot, in terms of White House management and policy; the hard-charging, experienced, hyper-aggressive Emanuel will undoubtedly keep the incoming administration organized, deal effectively with Congress and serve as an effective gatekeeper to a new president who will be besieged by those seeking influence and jobs.