State Department Indicates Schindler Should Not Have Briefed Reporters

The State Department said today that yesterday’s meeting between Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and 80 American Jewish communal leaders was “off the record” and strongly implied that the Jewish spokesman, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, should not have talked with reporters about it afterwards.

The issue raised at today’s State Department briefing by spokesman John Trattner opened a flurry of questions about why the Department called yesterday’s meeting and the meeting with American Jewish journalists called for tomorrow. It also brought into focus the widely held perception that the U.S. government is engaged in a campaign to weaken the Jewish community’s support for Israel and gain a more favorable Jewish outlook toward the Administration’s Middle East policies.

When a French correspondent suggested that the meeting was, at least in part, a “campaign of persuasion to sell it (U.S. policy) to a group of people,” Trattner said it was up to the reporters to make that judgment, adding, “I won’t agree or disagree with the characterization.”

Trattner said yesterday’s meeting was “a dialogue” the purpose of which was to “inform” Jewish communal leaders of U.S. policies and obtain the leaders’ views. “The Secretary found it useful” and will continue “to do the same sort of thing,” he said. Replying to an Arab correspondent, Trattner said he knew of no plans for a similar meeting with leaders of Arab-American groups.

Reporters wanted to know if tomorrow’s meeting to which 80 journalists representing the American Jewish press have been invited would be open. He replied that the meeting would be on “background” and is “part of the same dialogue as yesterday.” He said the purpose was to give the journalists something to write about without direct attribution. He rejected a request for a pool reporter for the general press at tomorrow’s meeting, noting that other reporters have a number of opportunities to meet with the Secretary of State. “These are special meetings for the Jewish community,” Trattner said.

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