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Ever since President Barack Obama took office, Jewish leaders have been asking for a meeting with him. The White House, apparently thinking Jewish support for Obama was in the pocket, put them off. But a major Jewish leader says that after Newsmax.com reported on deep concerns in the Jewish community about Obama’s Middle East initiatives and statements, the White House responded quickly by asking 14 top Jewish leaders to meet with the president on July 13.
Yet that important Jewish leader, Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, says he was barred from attending the meeting because of criticism he aimed at Obama.
In June, Newsmax reported that Klein and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, believed Obama’s Jewish support was eroding as a result of his recent Middle East activities.
“The Hoenlein and Klein interviews [with Newsmax] got the ball really rolling,” Klein tells Newsmax. “This meeting was called because they were getting very worried that more and more Jewish people are expressing concern about Obama’s policies on Israel. The White House wanted to stop the bleeding, as expressed in Newsmax interviews and picked up elsewhere.” Klein says that “Newsmax was a significant factor in this meeting happening.”
At 3 p.m. on July 13, Obama met for 45 minutes with Hoenlein, whose organization represents 50 major Jewish groups, and 13 other Jewish leaders. Klein, whose organization of 30,000 members is the oldest pro-Israel group in the country, was not invited. According to press reports, only Jewish leaders known to be sympathetic to Obama were invited to the meeting.
Klein’s White House contacts told him flat out that he was shunned because of his strong criticism of Obama. In his June interview with Newsmax, Klein said that Obama may be the “most hostile president to Israel” ever.
“They said to me, ‘How do you expect us to invite you to a meeting with the president when you keep criticizing the president?’” Klein says.
Klein found the White House response to him surprising, and “remarkable that the president has said he wants to be bipartisan and reach out to people who don’t agree with him and that he wants to hear all good ideas, even if they’re different from his.”
Klein also found it ironic that he was chastised for criticizing the president, and banned from a meeting with top Jewish leaders, at the same time Obama has argued for sitting down and negotiating with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.
Klein said he told White House aides, “You won’t allow me in the meeting to discuss issues. And you want to negotiate with these evil haters of America, but I can’t be at a meeting where I would express my concerns very respectfully and responsibly?”
Klein says he has talked to several people who attended the off-the-record meeting. He was told that though the meeting was amicable, Obama was asked why he is pressuring Israel and not the Arabs on contentious issues.
Obama, Klein says, responded that he is dealing firmly and forthrightly with the Arabs but the media are not emphasizing that.
Klein says the Jewish leaders did not bring up important matters about some of Obama’s statements, including his use of mistaken statistics and analogies in his Cairo speech in June.
As a child of survivors of the Holocaust, Klein says he was particularly offended by Obama’s comparison of the suffering of Palestinians with the Nazis’ murder of more than 6 million Jews during the Holocaust. This issue was not raised, nor was Obama’s claim that America has an astonishing 7 million Muslims.
Klein said Obama’s claim showed a willingness by him to use phony figures to support a tilt toward Muslims.
“Every major survey shows there’s between 1.5 million and 2.5 million Muslims in America,” Klein says. “Where does he get the number 7 million? This is the number that the Arab propagandists promote. There’s no legitimate survey that shows a number of that nature.”
Liberal groups at the meeting were pleased with Obama’s responses, Klein says. Others, like the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, expressed concerns.
Since his Newsmax interview in June, Klein doubts Obama’s meeting with a select group of Jewish leaders will help him. Klein thinks Jewish support for Obama has dwindled even more in the past month.
“In my own experience of speaking to many different people and speaking to synagogues around the country in the last few weeks, I’m seeing an acceleration of concern about Obama’s position on Israel,” Klein says. “Even supporters of Obama who voted for him are telling me that they’re beginning to have concerns about him.”