U.S. President Barack Obama hosted Holocaust survivor and Nazi hunter Elie Wiesel with a kosher lunch Tuesday, and for appetizers, convinced him there is no tension between the United States and Israel. “There were moments of tension,” Wiesel said told reporters. “The tension, I think, is gone."
In what American media called the president’s “charm offensive,” his luncheon was the latest in high profile steps to cover up the recent public condemnation of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The President’s hosting Wiesel for lunch followed several assurances, including a personal phone call to the Prime Minister this week, that the United States remains a friend of the Jewish State.
Wiesel, who last year escorted President Obama during a tour of the Buchenwald Nazi death camp, felt strong enough about the status of Jerusalem to publish a full-page advertisement in American newspapers calling Jerusalem “the heart of our heart, the soul of our soul. For me, the Jew that I am, Jerusalem is above politics. It is mentioned more than six hundred times in Scripture -- and not a single time in the Koran.”
He called on President Obama to stop pressuring Prime Minister Netanyahu to issue a building freeze for Jews in parts of Jerusalem that the Palestinian Authority insists will be its capital in a new Arab country that it wants to set up within Israel’s borders. Wiesel supports the "two-state" concept.
Relations between the president and the Prime Minister never have been warm since President Obama took office last year, but the acrimony spilled into the public arena when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel several weeks ago.
At that time, a government ministry issued a routine announcement on progress in a seven-stage bureaucratic process for approving a housing project for Jews in an area of Jerusalem that the United States recognizes as part of a would-be Palestinian Authority country.
Washington analysts observed that the ensuing verbal whipping of Prime Minister Netanyahu spun out of control, and a large majority of Congress members hurried to warn President Obama he had gone too far, particularly in a mid-term election year.
Although President Obama is winning back some support from American Jews, his efforts may be wasted, according to former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk. He told The New York Times Wednesday, “The real charm offensive needs to take place in Israel. I would accept it was a charm offensive if he caught a plane and went over there, which he needs to do. He’s lost the Israeli public.”
Despite the friendly lunch with Wiesel, Israel still may be in store for a bitter dessert. Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) director Tom Neumann was quoted by the Jewish Forward Wednesday as saying that although defense ties with Israel remain strong, “Obama may yet put pressure on Israel through the transfer of arms” as a lever for his confronting Iran.