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Jewish leaders to Biden: Reach out to Israelis

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish leaders who met with Vice President Joe Biden stressed the need to convey the Obama administration’s message to the Israeli public.

Biden hosted a number of leaders at his residence Tuesday, a week ahead of his visit to Israel.

Participants said the meeting, which included top White House Middle East staffers Dan Shapiro and Dennis Ross, lasted an hour — well beyond the 20 minutes allotted.

Participants discussed substantive issues such as Middle East peacemaking and Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but the need to make it clear to the Israeli public that the Obama administration was considering its concerns was the overriding topic.

"The overarching theme was, as critical as the vice president’s time spent with Israeli government leaders would be, it’s obvious to all what’s critical is what he says to the Israeli public," a participant said.

A broad left-to-right consensus that the Obama administration has failed to make its case to ordinary Israelis has emerged in recent months among pro-Israel groups.

Groups have been urging the White House to make a direct appeal, through a speech or a visit, since last summer — especially because President Obama has gone out of his way to reach out to Muslims in speeches and media interviews.

Organizations represented at the meeting included the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; the American Israel Public Affairs Committee; the Jewish Federations of North America; the Orthodox Union; the Anti-Defamation League;  the American Jewish Committee; and the National Jewish Democratic Council. Also, Robert Wexler, the former Florida congressman and leading Jewish supporter of Barack Obama who now heads a think tank; Jack Rosen, a former American Jewish Congress head who has long been friends with Biden; and Haim Saban, the entertainment magnate and would-be peace broker who is a major donor to the Democratic Party.

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