Conference of Presidents executive vice chairman Malcolm Hoenlein praised President Obama’s speech for reiterating the special relationship between the United States and Israel, but also said it could have been stronger in some other areas.
In a telephone interview with JTA, Hoenlein stressed that Obama stated "explicitly" the nature of the relationship between the U.S. and Israel and that the bonds between the two countries are "unbreakable." And he added that there was no "linkage" in the speech between progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue and stopping Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The Conference of Presidents leader also applauded the speech’s language condemning anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial, but said Obama’s statement about Israel being born from years of persecution left out one critical fact: The Jewish people also have a 3,000 year-old historical connection to the land of Israel — an important point to emphasize, he said, in the Muslim world.
Hoenlein did think the speech was "too mild" on Iran, and said that the president should have made a reference to the "Palestinian leadership" that has "failed" over the last six decades. He also was concerned that by mentioning a Israeli settlement freeze in his speech, Obama had "elevated" the issue so that it’s the "be all, end all," while not proposing any concrete equivalent measures in his talk that the Palestinians or Arab states need to take.
He added, though, that one must take Obama’s audience into account.
"This was a speech intended to reach out to the Muslim and Arab world," he said.