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JEWISH GROUPS STRUGGLE TO GAIN WHITE HOUSE ACCESS POINTS
Presidents since Carter have hired Jewish liaisons to serve as point men for the community. But the position has been vacant since January 20
Jewish American organizations long active in Washington politics are struggling to communicate with the Trump administration, scavenging through old Rolodexes and e-mail lists to find points of access into the president’s small policy team.
A traditional structure governed these communications before the Trump era: Presidents since Jimmy Carter have hired White House Jewish liaisons to serve as point men for the community. But the position has been vacant since January 20, and the White House has no plans to fill it, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
The absence of a liaison has forced Jewish community activists to resort elsewhere within the government to raise their questions and concerns. But several other positions that have previously served as secondary access points also remain empty. The State Department’s special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism– a congressionally mandated appointment– has not been filled; there is no ambassador-at-large for religious freedom, nor a special envoy for the Middle East peace process.
“It was easier when there were liaisons specifically assigned to the Jewish community, and I’m hoping they will move in that direction— that they’ll recognize the benefits of that,” said Jason Isaacson, director of government and international affairs for the American Jewish Committee. “It’s required going back to directories and old emails, tracking down people who are in positions of influence at a lower level and calling on them directly as opposed to going through a liaison office.”
Donald Trump renamed Barack Obama’s Office of Public Engagement to its old name– the Office of Public Liaison– once he entered the White House, and has not appointed any constituency-specific posts. Several Jewish community leaders say that Jason Greenblatt, the president’s special representative for international negotiations, is actually wearing two hats, leading the White House effort to restart talks between Israelis and Palestinians while also organizing the administration’s contacts with the Jewish world.
Greenblatt was behind the guest list for an Israeli Independence Day reception in April, which included more conservative-leaning Jewish groups, said one attendee. Tom Rose, a close confidante of Vice President Mike Pence, has become another critical connection for several Jewish organizations.
Greenblatt may become the next Tevi Troy, a George W. Bush administration official who served in 2003 as both deputy cabinet secretary and Jewish liaison, said Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Orthodox Union.
“My experience so far is that its more similar to the Bush administration than to the Obama administration,” said Diament, who attended the April reception. “The Obama administration had a person in the liaison office, but in the Bush administration, most of the time they did not have that.”
Troy’s successor, Noam Neusner, said the liaison position was a vehicle for the president to relay his positions to the Jewish community.
“There are policy making roles that are yet to be filled that are perhaps more critical in nature,” said Neusner. “But they are right to want to express themselves. It’s a good role to fill, as with any other of the liaison roles.”
That role was particularly critical in 2015, when Obama reached a nuclear deal with Iran deeply unpopular with the Jewish American establishment. Matt Nosanchuk, Obama’s longest-serving liaison, proved himself a critical surrogate at the time, painting for the president a landscape of the community’s concerns while relaying to its leadership the White House’s best arguments.
“When it comes to the organization of the White House staff, people are policy– whether a certain position exists and who fills it reflects the priorities of the President and his administration,” Nosanchuk said. “The consequences of not having someone in that role were evidenced within a week of the inauguration, when President Trump issued a statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day that omitted any mention of the Jewish victims, an insensitivity that would have been prevented had there been an effective Jewish liaison working in the White House at the time.”
“A Jewish liaison at the White House not only prevents these kinds of unforced errors,” Nosanchuk added. “He or she also works to mobilize the American Jewish community around the president’s priorities.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, national director and CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said it was “unfortunate” that Trump had yet to appoint a liaison and called on Trump to allocate “appropriate resources” to the State Department in order to continue the work of monitoring antisemitism worldwide.
“Every White House in recent memory has had a liaison to the Jewish community,” Greenblatt said. “We hope this is remedied soon so we and others in the community can work closely on our shared goals.”
A State Department official told The Jerusalem Post in March that the administration recognizes its responsibility to fill the role of antisemitism envoy, but declined to comment on the search.
A senior administration official said that the Office of Public Liaison would continue the work of Jewish liaisons past. The official declined to comment on the future role of the still-vacant antisemitism envoy position.
ADL, Major Jewish Groups Snub Invite to Trump Hotel Hanukkah Party in DC
More and more Jewish groups are backing out of the high-profile Hanukkah party; even White House Jewish liaisons refused invites to be honored at the Trump Hotel bash.
ed note–and of course, as we always point out here, the question that must be asked is WHY?
Is there any doubt whatsoever that if indeed, as we are told on a daily basis by all sorts of ‘experts’, that Trump was ‘Israel’s boy’, that these same Jewish groups now snubbing his invitation would make sure to be first in line, getting their ugly faces photographed shaking hands with him? Can anyone recall a similar circumstance of these same groups–operating at the EXTREMELY elevated status that they do and on an INTERNATIONAL BASIS, snubbing a newly-elected US President in this fashion?
If indeed–as we are told on a daily basis by geniuses in this ‘movement’ that Trump is owned by the Jews, why this high-profile snub which will doubtless result in all sorts of behind the scenes retaliation from someone who is scheduled to become the world’s most powerful political figure?
That is, if indeed he actually becomes that figure…
The fact that ADL and other groups would take such a gamble, the likely outcome of which would be to curry disfavor with the President suggests that perhaps they know something that the rest of us don’t know just yet vis a vis what is scheduled to be taking place in the Electoral College in just a few days and know they can engage in risky business such as this without incurring any later liabilities.
Furthermore, as pointed out by a reader on this website, all should take note of the fact that yet again we have powerful Jewish groups/individuals avoiding a certain locale on a certain day, exactly as took place on the morning of 9/11, when Jews were warned by the Odigo instant messaging system to NOT arrive at the Twin Towers on the morning of 9/11.
But, despite this, doubtless we will be flooded here with all sorts of inane ‘analysis’ by those aforementioned ‘geniuses’ accompanied by news stories of Trump talking about his ‘Jewish daughter’ and his ‘Jewish grandkids’ and how all of this is proof that he is not just in Netanyahu’s back pocket, but in his underwear.
NEW YORK – Malcolm Hoenlein may be standing in a largely empty, ornate Trump International Hotel ballroom late Wednesday afternoon during the Conference of Presidents’ now-infamous Hanukkah party.
It is well known that eight of the Conference of Presidents’ left-of-center member organizations, including the Union for Reform Judaism and National Council of Jewish Women, pulled out of the event. They cited reasons ranging from the fact that the party is being co-hosted by the embassy of Azerbaijan, a Muslim-led country with a questionable human rights record, to the fact that it is being held in a new hotel property owned by the president-elect, which raises questions about the appearance of trying to curry favor with him.
What has not been known, until now, is that several of the Conference’s centrist member groups – core constituents including the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah and Jewish Federations of North America – are also refusing to attend the party.
Sources at the ADL, AJC and Hadassah confirmed that they will not participate, as did someone close to JFNA.
“These groups seem to care more about displaying their partisan anti-Trump animus than about the serious mistake of offending the next president of the United States, which would negatively impact our joint duty to promote strong U.S.-Israel relations,” Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America – which is definitely attending the Conference party – told Haaretz. “I doubt these groups would have complained if we had booked a ‘Clinton’ hotel after a Hilary Clinton victory.”
What’s more, the Conference invited the current and three former Obama White House liaisons to the Jewish community to be honored and attend its party. All declined to participate at any level. To be fair, they will all likely be at the White House Hanukkah reception – Obama’s final Jewish party in the White House – which starts at 6:30 P.M. local time.
The Conference’s Hoenlein did not respond to several emails sent by Haaretz seeking his comment.
His organization’s party, timed to allow people to go to both its party and the White House reception, is slated to take place at the Trump hotel a few blocks away from 4 P.M. to 6 P.M. The Conference gathering will take place in the Trump hotel’s Lincoln Library, which the hotel’s website describes as having 16 foot coffered ceilings, ornate millwork, gilded mirrors and velvet draperies.
The mainstream Conference member agencies have not put made public statements about their decision.
“Nobody’s going. The reasons are obvious,” said one Washington Jewish insider. “It is highly embarrassing for Malcolm Hoenlein.”
Hoenlein “obviously did not anticipate the backlash” against holding it in a Trump hotel, said another. “He really didn’t know what he was doing.”
Some of the mainstream Conference member executives offered public explanations for why they aren’t going.
Janice Weinman, Hadassah’s CEO, told Haaretz that her organization has an executive committee meeting ending just in time for her to take a 4 P.M. flight to Washington for the White House party.
Someone close to the JFNA said that its leaders “are traveling home” and “have other commitments.”
One of the White House Jewish liaisons struck a different tone, telling Haaretz, “are you kidding? I was getting invitations to the protest and I know half the people who are going to that,” speaking of the If Not Now-organized demonstration planned for outside the hotel.
If Not Now is a grassroots protest group whose main focus has been the Israeli occupation, but since Trump’s election has been busy demonstrating against the Trump administration and the Jewish groups it views as cozying up to the president-elect. Hundreds of people turned out to protest outside the Zionist Organization of America’s recent annual banquet, which expected to host Trump adviser Steve Bannon. His Breitbart News agency has proudly promoted white supremacist groups. Bannon never showed up.
The remaining Conference of Presidents member organizations apparently still planning to attend the Hanukkah party include relatively small groups like the ZOA, the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (or CAMERA) and Emunah of America as well as some larger ones like the Orthodox Union.
“A number of the groups are seemingly not that distressed by the Trump administration’s direction. It seems pretty clear that there is a strong desire to protect access for the full agenda, one piece of which is Israel,” said Gideon Aranoff, CEO of Ameinu, one of the Conference member institutions that earlier pulled out of the Chanukah party.
“From our perspective it’s worse for the Jewish community, worse for Israel, and worse for Jewish-Muslim relations to appear to be currying favor with the Trump administration, so holding this event at his hotel is a terrible mistake,” Aranoff told Haaretz.