White House reaches out to U.S. Jewish leaders

JERUSALEM (JTA) — A senior White House official tried to reassure United States Jewish community leaders in the wake of tension between the Obama administration and Israel.

In an off-the-record conference call, National Security Council Middle East Senior Director Dan Shapiro on Friday reportedly said that reports of tension between the two allies were being blown out of proportion by the media, according to weekend reports in several Israeli newspapers.

The call was first reported Friday on the Politico Web site.

Shapiro reportedly said that the issue of building in eastern Jerusalem had not been on the agenda for Vice President Joe Biden’s visit but that the issue was forced into prominence after the announcement of a building project in a fervently Orthodox neighborhood in eastern Jerusalem.

Shapiro also reportedly emphasized that Jerusalem is a final-status issue to be discussed directly between Israel and Palestinian negotiators.

He reportedly said that there was no snub intended by Obama during his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House and that the leaders had agreed before the meeting on its parameters, also pointing out that Netanyahu has met with Obama more times in the United States than any other world leader.

He reportedly added that there is "more agreement than disagreement" between Washington and Jerusalem.

Some of the participants on the call, according to Haaretz, were William Daroff, vice president for Public Policy and Director of the Washington office of The Jewish Federations of North America; Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; and Nathan Diament, Director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America.

Netanyahu still has not offered a list of gestures to the Palestinians in order to restart proximity talks, a list that Washington reportedly asked for and that Netanyahu was to have provided after returning to Israel last week and meeting with his inner Cabinet of seven ministers, known as the Septet. The Septet met twice before Passover and did not settle on a list of gestures. It will meet again after the holiday is over, according to reports.
 

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