Chanukah Bush Earns Jews' Thumbs Up

Eli Kintisch - The Forward (NY) - December 14, 2001

Justice4JP Prefacing Note:
Jewish Leaders Again Spurn the Opportunity to Free Pollard

There is not a Jewish leader alive today who is unaware that Jonathan Pollard's sentence is unjust and that his continued incarceration is a travesty of justice. In these unprecedented times of terrorist attacks and amid the backdrop of Jonathan Pollard's 16 harsh years in prison and the recent loss of his mother, sources in Washington indicate that President Bush is open to releasing Pollard as a gesture to the Jewish community and Israel... if only they would ask.

The article below, "

Chanukah Bush Earns Jews' Thumbs Up

" documents yet another meeting between the President of the United States and the American Jewish leaders, where the case of Jonathan Pollard is not even mentioned.

Six months ago, in a June 21, 2001 open letter, Esther Pollard asked the following questions of American Jewish leaders who had just met with President Bush for the second time since his inauguration:

  • How is it that in 16 years and 4 successive administrations, Jonathan Pollard has never been on the official agenda of Jewish leaders when you meet with the President to discuss Jewish concerns?

  • How is it that you, the Jewish leaders, have signed letters to the President calling for Jonathan's release, and yet you consistently fail to express that concern in face to face meetings?

  • How is it that in front of Jewish audiences, you claim to care so much about Jonathan, yet when you are facing the one man in the world who can sign a document to free him, you are struck dumb?

  • As a nation, and as a vibrant American community, all Jews feel deeply shamed by your silence. Your unwillingness to advocate openly and effectively to free Jonathan Pollard - after 16 years of this ordeal - demeans us as a people. Jewish history watches. Jonathan Pollard waits. How can you abandon him this way?
The same questions remain unanswered today. See the full text of Mrs. Pollard's open letter to the American Jewish leadership.

Here is the article:


Chanukah Bush Earns Jews' Thumbs Up

President's Whirlwind Holiday Finds Praise Across the Spectrum

WASHINGTON

- On Monday, the first day of Chanukah, the White House gave the American Jewish community a present: five solid hours of face time with the president.

In an unusually extended and, observers say, warm series of meetings at the White House, President Bush met with Jewish community leaders from across the political spectrum to express his support for Israel and cement a relationship with a constituency that as recently as this summer seemed at best lukewarm toward him.

Those feelings have warmed, as shown in a new poll by Republican pollster Frank Luntz. Unveiled at the president's sit-down early in the day with the Republican Jewish Coalition, the poll showed an unprecedented 80% approval rating for the president among American Jews. The survey included 400 participants and had a margin of error of plus or minus 5%. Mr. Bush won only about 20% of the American Jewish vote in 2000.

"The suicide bombings [in Israel] have changed the way the entire world looks at the situation that Israel faces," said the executive director of the Republican group, Matthew Brooks. "Whatever paradigm existed before is now non-existent, and this president understands that."

"He told us he liked [Israeli Prime Minister] Sharon because Sharon was tough, and that he was a man of his word," said the vice chairman of RJC, Mike Epstein, of their meeting with the president. "He said that Sharon was the right man for the times."

Following his meeting with the Republican Jewish Coalition, Mr. Bush met with some 30 representatives from other Jewish organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, Agudath Israel of America and Americans for Peace Now.

Afterward he lit Chanukah candles with children of Jewish White House staffers, using a 100-year-old menorah from Lvov, on loan from the Jewish Museum in New York. That was followed by an evening holiday reception for some 300 Jewish community leaders and Republican donors, where the orchestra played "I Have a Little Dreidl."

Before the candle-lighting ceremony, Mr. Bush spoke of Chanukah and today's struggles. "As we watch the lighting of this second candle of Chanukah, we're reminded of the ancient story of Israel's courage, and of the power of faith to make the darkness bright," he said. "We can see the heroic spirit of the Maccabees lives on in Israel today. And we trust that a better day is coming."

Mr. Bush then handed a candle to 8-year old Talia Lefkowitz, daughter of the general counsel of the Office of Budget and Management, Jay Lefkowitz. Ms. Lefkowitz sang the two Chanukah blessings as camera shutters snapped away. Afterwards, Mr. Bush made the rounds among the 14 youngsters, shaking hands and pausing at before Nathaniel Frum, son of White House speechwriter David Frum, whose yarmulke was painted like a baseball. "My kind of guy," said the president, to wide laughter.

Participants in the meeting with Jewish organizational leaders - which went twice as long as the half hour set aside by the White House - said that Mr. Bush began the meeting with an overview of the war in Afghanistan and a discussion of future goals.

Other topics discussed ranged from the American role in the Middle East peace process to the flow of weapons from Russia to Iran and the need for educational, cultural and political support for countries that, like Afghanistan, are targets in the war on terror.

Participants gave the president high marks, saying the mood of the meeting was positive.

The Jewish representatives, for their part, posed no difficult questions - a decision made during a conference call among participants before the meeting began.

At the conclusion, participants were enthusiastic in their praise of the president.

"Absolutely terrific," said the president of the American Jewish Congress, Jack Rosen.

Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said the meeting served as an "opportunity for us to express our appreciation."

"We stand behind the president on the war on terrorism and his efforts to achieve the goals that he set out and we will be there with him for the long haul," Mr. Hoenlein said.

Most important, participants said, is that the meeting took place at all. In the spring and fall, American Jewish activists were criticizing the White House sharply for its repeated rebukes of Israeli responses to terrorism. Then, after September 11, leaders of American Jewish organizations were warning the administration not to sacrifice Israeli needs in order to build a coalition of moderate Arab states for the war in Afghanistan.

But last week's suicide bombings, which came just as the administration was investing its diplomatic capital by dispatching a new Middle East envoy, seemed to put the administration squarely in the Israeli camp.

Whether Mr. Bush's strengthened support for Israel will translate into more Jewish votes in 2004 is an open question. Jewish Democrats in Washington were skeptical. "I'm probably the most partisan person you know - and I support much of the president's agenda," said the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, Ira Forman. "I also suspect that come 2004 the vast majority of American Jews will vote Democratic again."

On the other hand, interviews with several of the 300 people waiting to enter the White House for the evening Chanukah party - which the president attended for the full two hours - suggested that Mr. Bush would have a strong core group pulling for him at election time. "He's transformed a lot of Democrats," said Kalman Sultanik, chairman of the American section of the World Jewish Congress.


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