During Obama's presidential campaign, Alan Solow, an attorney and philanthropist and Obama supporter since Obama's first race for the Illinois Senate referred to Obama as the “first Jewish president.”
Oh, Solow also happens to be the recently elected chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
I wrote about this in my post Does AIPAC Now Represent Obama's Interests Too?, noting at the time that a number of other high-profile defenders of Israel also happened to be Obama supporters.
As tension builds between the new Obama administration in Washington and the new Netanyahu government in Jerusalem, two of President Obama’s closest Jewish allies may find themselves increasingly in the middle.
Lee Rosenberg, who campaigned on behalf of Obama, was confirmed as president-elect of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee at its recent national conference. And Alan Solow, an early Obama supporter, was recently elected chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
STATEMENT BY CONFERENCE OF PRESIDENTS CHAIRMAN ALAN SOLOW AND EXECUTIVE VICE CHAIRMAN MALCOLM HOENLEIN ON ISSUES RAISED REGARDING CONSTRUCTION IN JERUSALEM
New York, July 21, 2009 … The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has long advocated and supported the unity of Jerusalem, the capital of the State of Israel. As such, we believe that legal construction by residents of the city should be allowed as long as it is in keeping with the standards and requirements of the municipality and the national government. We find disturbing the objections raised to the proposed construction of residential units on property that was legally purchased and approved by the appropriate authorities. The area in question houses major Israeli governmental agencies, including the national police headquarters. The United States has in the past and recently raised objections to the removal of illegal structures built by Arabs in eastern Jerusalem even though they were built in violation of zoning and other requirements often on usurped land. In addition to the Jewish housing, the project called for apartment units for Arabs as well.
It is particularly significant that the structure in question formerly was the house of the infamous Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseni who spent the war years in Berlin as a close ally of Hitler, aiding and abetting the Nazi extermination of Jews. He was also linked to the 1929 massacre in Hebron and other acts of incitement that resulted in deaths and destruction in what was then Palestine. There has been an expressed desire by some Palestinians to preserve the building as a tribute to Husseini.
As a united city, Jerusalem’s Jewish and Arab residents should be permitted to reside wherever legal and security requirements allow. Hundreds of Arab families have moved into Jewish neighborhoods of Jerusalem and the same right should be accorded to Jewish residents in live where they choose in Jerusalem. To do otherwise would undermine and prejudge the status of the city.
No government of Israel has or can pursue a discriminatory policy that would prevent the legitimate presence of Jews in any area of its capital.
Now, Solow's statement makes it clear that his rosy expectations of Obama and Emanuel as reliable friends of Israel have been dashed.Furthermore to appreciate Solow's public disagreement with the president, it's significant that he issued his statement not as a private citizen, but on the letterhead of , the Conference of Presidents. The conference embraces 52 Jewish organizations spanning the gamut from Reform to Orthodox, from American for Peace Now to the Zionist Organization of America.So this time, it's not only a few reliable Israel supporters like Morton Klein of ZOA or Conference Vice Chairman Hoenlein who have been voicing deep concerns about Obama's policies toward Israel. Now, it's long-time friend Solow, speaking for the entire Conference.[emphasis added]
I don't know that this statement signals any kind of serious break between Solow and Obama. After all, Malcolm Hoenlein, the Executive Vice Chairman. Solow signed onto a statement that he was expected to. Who knows how much pressure there was to put out some kind of statement--would Solow just oppose something like this? Even if Solow agrees with the statement, that does not necessarily mean that his expectations of Obama have been 'dashed'--only further statements by Solow himself might clarify that.
Also, while the Conference may represent 53 organizations, that does not mean that "the entire gamut" backs the statement made. For instance, Ori Nir, the Americans for Peace Now spokesman has complained:
The statement that Malcolm Hoenlein and Alan Solow published earlier regarding construction in East Jerusalem does not reflect APN's position. APN strongly opposes actions that change the status quo in Jerusalem and threaten to prejudge or create obstacles to a negotiated solution in the city. As members of the Conference of Presidents, we were surprised to learn that this statement was published. We were never notified about it or given an opportunity to comment on it before its publication.
Who knows what percentage actually back the statement?
We can only hope that Obama's dropping approval numbers are indicative of people coming out from under his 'spell' and being able to evaluate his policies on their own merits.
Obama's dropping numbers would seem to indicate that people are doing exactly that.
UPDATE: Sure enough:
In an interview with Haaretz, Solow denied that the statement is indicative of a personal fallout with the president.So like I told you: it wasn't a disagreement; it was merely an articulation.
"The Conference has a long-standing policy on Jerusalem, and the disagreement between the governments of the U.S. and Israel were in the news," Solow said.
"Because the Conference had such a clear stated policy, it seemed appropriate to me that despite being someone who has known President Obama for a long time and continues to have very good working relations with him, I thought it was appropriate that the Conference official position be articulated."