Jewish Leaders ‘clear the Air’ with Clinton’s Pick for State

Secretary of State-designate Warren Christopher met here Wednesday with a small group of Jewish organizational leaders, in a session one official called “very positive.”

The meeting represented a clearing of the air between Christopher and Jewish leaders, after a period during which some in the Jewish community had expressed concern about the prospective secretary’s commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship.

“We found that the meeting dispelled some of the concerns,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, one of the participants in the meeting.

“We discussed a wide variety of concerns and found him very responsive,” he said.

Others attending the meeting were Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), who hosted the session; Lester Pollack, the new chairman of the Conference of Presidents: Monte Friedkin, vice president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; and Liz Schrayer, AIPAC’s political director.

Lieberman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Christopher asked him to set up the meeting.

‘QUITE WARM AND FORTHCOMING’

“He was reaching out. He know there was concern in the pro-Israel community,” the senator said.

Christopher was “quite warm and forthcoming,” Lieberman said.

He said the secretary-designate, who has had ties with the Jewish community in Los Angeles, told the Jewish leaders he considers himself pro-Israel.

After the session, Pollack and Hoenlein met with Anthony Lake, whom President-elect Bill Clinton has named to chair his National Security Council, and Samuel Berger, Lake’s designated deputy.

Hoenlein characterized the meetings as “very open” and said they included talk about the Jewish leaders’ concerns.

Many of these center around Christopher’s and Lake’s work in the Carter administration State Department, which is perceived as having been tough on Israel.

Hoenlein said the Clinton appointees “believe the concerns were unfounded.”

The Jewish leaders left the meeting with Christopher “reassured,” he said, that the pro-Israel positions espoused by Clinton during the campaign “would characterize the foreign policy of the administration.”

Hoenlein said Christopher planned to meet soon with the entire Conference of Presidents, an umbrella group of 50 national Jewish secular and religious organizations.

“Mr. Christopher assured us of his desire to be accessible and have positive, ongoing communications,” he said.

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