Obama officials, Jewish leaders talk Durban II


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Obama administration officials explained to U.S. Jewish leaders why the administration decided to participate in planning discussions for the Durban II conference.

Jewish leaders participating in Monday’s conference call with White House and State Department officials, the content of which was off the record, said the session provided an opportunity for the administration to detail its policy, and for Jewish leaders to ask questions, about the decision to attend this week’s consultations in preparation for the April United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Geneva.

The conference is referred to as Durban II in reference to the 2001 conference in South Africa that served primarily as a vehicle to attack Israel and which the United States walked out on before its conclusion.

A State Department news release Feb. 14 said the administration was participating in the preparatory talks in order to "change the direction" in which the conference is heading. The release said it was not an indication that the United States would participate in the actual conference.

"It was an opportunity for Jewish leaders to share our feelings and concerns," said Hadar Susskind, Washington director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

"The purpose was to have a dialogue with American Jewish leaders in order to keep us abreast of where the administration stands," said William Daroff, vice president for public policy and director of the United Jewish Communities office in Washington.

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