Fact Checking The ‘Controversial’ White House Call With Jewish Leaders

Reports that an O

bama adviser told top Jewish leaders that the administration is applying pressure to Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians is coming under new scrutiny after the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent talked to two individuals who were on the conference call.

On Friday, the Washington Times’s Eli Lake reported that the White House told Jewish leaders it was pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt Obama’s position that 1967 border lines, with mutually agreed swaps, should be the basis for peace talks. But it turns out that Lake’s report of the call might have been less than completely accurate.

Sargent spoke with Alan Solow, former head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and Stuart Eizenstat, a former Clinton administration official. He reports:

Both tell me that there was no discussion whatsoever of pressuring Israel to come to the table absent a recognition by Hamas of the Quartet Principles — which demand recognition of Israel, renouncing terrorism, and abiding by past agreements. They both asserted that on the call, [Steven Simon,White House National Security Council senior director for the Middle East and North Africa] merely restated Obama’s public position on these issues.

Sargent questioned Eizenstat about if the White House had made any shift in policy and found a very clear answer. He writes:

“I don’t know how anyone in their wildest imagination got the idea that there was any implication of any additional pressure on Israel,” Eizenstat told me. “Quite the contrary — the call was meant as reassurance of the President’s position on not negotiating with Hamas” if they don’t accept the Quartet principles.

While this seems like an easy enough story to have fact checked — as Sargent’s good journalism shows — right wing critics of the White House have gotten plenty of traction out of misreporting the White House’s message to Jewish leaders.

The Council on Foreign Relation’s Elliot Abrams told the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin:

If the reports are right, the U.S. is now abandoning the Quartet Principles — and asking Israel to negotiate with a Palestinian side that includes Hamas without Hamas taking one single step away from terror.

And Rubin quipped:

Is the U.S. president pressuring Israel to adopt a position that is not its own and diminishes its bargaining position? And what happened to the statements in President Obama’s speech to AIPAC that Israel could not be expected to sit down with those who want to destroy it?

Having being called out on her hyping of a fabricated controversy, Rubin bizarrely lashed out at Sargent for having the nerve to fact check her. With no real evidence to back her claim, Rubin asserts “…the administration apparently dispensed two friendly voices to say everything was fine, perfectly fine.” She goes on to complain that “the denseness of American Jewish leaders is always disturbing,” and concludes that Sargent’s post is “all about domestic damage-control for the administration.”


Rubin’s misrepresentation of an AIPAC memo (see our post yesterday) and her role in hyping the nonexistent controversy about the White House call should drive home the point that the Post’s “Right Turn” blogger, who “[reports] opinion from a conservative perspective,” is deeply invested in creating a rift between Jewish Democrats and the White House, even when the facts don’t bear her out.