NEW YORK (Nov. 23)
A meeting held Wednesday between Jewish leaders and White House chief of staff-designate John Sununu was characterized as “very positive.”
The lunch meeting was hosted by Jewish Republican leader Jacob Stein, who wanted to provide Jewish representatives and Sununu a chance to meet each other personally and discuss differences and common agendas.
About 30 heads of major Jewish organizations met for more than an hour at the Princeton Club with the retiring New Hampshire governor. President-elect George Bush’s selection last week of Sununu to the chief staff post at the White House had elicited concern by Jewish groups because of his pro-Arab leanings.
His refusal two years ago to sign a petition denouncing the Untied Nations’ 1975 resolution equating Zionism with racism raised the ire of many Jewish leaders.
But on Wednesday, Sununu “stated his position that he thoroughly supports the repeal of the resolution (and) that he was a major architect who set forth clearly in the record that this position should be expunged,” according to Stein.
Sununu’s father’s family is of Middle Eastern origin. The family came to the United States from Beirut and Jerusalem’s Greek Orthodox community at the beginning of this century. His mother was born in EI Salvador of Greek heritage.
Sununu’s rejection of the controversial U.N. resolution was confirmed Wednesday by Julius Berman, a past chairman of the Conference of presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, who was at the meeting.
Berman said Sununu “was unequivocal that he clearly takes the position now that the resolution should be revoked.”
‘GOOD-NATURED ABOUT DIFFERENCES’
Sununu was described as “affable and in forming” by another participant, Theodore EI-lenoff, American Jewish Committee president.
Ellenoff said Sununu was questioned “with a great deal of interest with regard to positions he had taken on the Middle East.” He said it “became clear that he was good-natured about the differences and anxious to talk about them.”
According to one participant, Sununu acknowledged that he had publicly stated that positions taken at times by the organized Jewish community are “in his opinion not helpful in the overall position advocated for Israel.”
Sununu was described by one participant as interested “in continuing the talks with the people present” and “in establishing the mechanisms in which there could be broad dialogue on subjects like Israel and the Middle East.”
The talks were described as “no-holds barred” and also veered at times from Israel and the Middle East to such issues as eduacation and taxes.
Everyone interviewed said Sununu calrified that he “sees himself not as a policy-maker but as an implementor of the president’s policy.”
Also present at the meeting were Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith; Seymour Reich, internatonal president of B’nai B’rith; Morris Abram, outgoing chairman of the Conference of Presidents; and Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the conference.