Daily Israel Report

Video: Emanuel, Amid Jokes, Repeats Call for More Talk

Rahm Emanuel told American Jews his son and nephew’s bar mitzvahs will be in Israel, jokingly asked for money and called for PA-Israeli ”dialogue.”
By Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu
First Publish: 11/11/2009, 9:49 AM / Last Update: 11/11/2009, 10:25 AM

Israel news photo

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel mixed jokes and politics in his speech to American Jewish leaders Tuesday night, and repeated previously stated Obama administration policies.

After announcing that his son and nephew will celebrate their Bar Mitzvahs in Israel next year, he joking asked delegates at the Jewish Federations of North America annual convention for contributions. He then reminded his audience that it is illegal for a public servant to accept personal donations.

Emanuel did not note whether the Bar Mitzvahs would take place at the Western Wall, which like the rest of the Old City is in eastern Jerusalem and which the United States considers “occupied territory.”

The serious side of his speech was a repetition for a “dialogue” between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, which has refused to resume talks before Israel meets the American demand that it stop all building for Jews in eastern Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.

“I know that some in the Jewish community believe we have singled out Israel for criticism as it relates to settlements,” Emanuel said. “The fact is, the administration’s position is consistent with the positions of previous administrations and with the previous commitments of the Israeli government under the Roadmap.”

The Roadmap plan calls for a negotiated agreement concerning the future of Judea and Samaria and does not specifically prohibit building for Jews. It also lists a series of security measures to be carried out by the Palestinian Authority prior to the completion of any final status decisions.

Despite the American position backing PA demands for a building freeze, Emanuel maintained that this isn’t a “pre-condition” as stated by Abbas.

Emanuel was a last-minute substitute for U.S. President Barack Obama, who was attending memorials services for the victims of the massacre of U.S. Army soldiers by a Muslim psychiatrist.

He repeated the administration’s commitment to friendship with Israel, saying, “It is a bond rooted in shared interests and shared values.” The White House Chief of Staff also called on the PA to “recognize Israel’s right to exist and reject the incitement of violence against Israeli citizens,” a remark that drew the loudest applause from the crowd.