Barack Obama
Barack Obama Flash 90

US President Barack Obama held an annual Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashana) phone conference call with 900 American rabbis on Monday, in which he focused his message on the instability in the Middle East.

The White House issued a statement about the call, saying Obama began by "noting the important role of the American Jewish community in advancing key domestic priorities."

Obama then "reaffirmed our efforts, working with allies, to degrade and destroy ISIL," the statement said in reference to Islamic State (ISIS). Indeed, America just this Monday began airstrikes against the group in Syria, following similar strikes in Iraq.

The president then expressed "his commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and our collective responsibility to respond to the sharp increase in global anti-Semitism."

"He also reaffirmed his unshakable commitment to Israel’s security, his support for (the anti-missile) Iron Dome (defense system), as well as his support of a sustainable peace through a two-state agreement," added the statement.

Despite his pledge of "unshakable" commitment to Israel, Obama threw the Jewish state for a curve-ball during Operation Protective Edge when he cancelled a routine shipment of Hellfire missiles, later ordering stricter scrutiny on future weapons transfers.

"Help on foreign policy"

Rabbi William Gershon, president of the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly who leads Congregation Shearith Israel in Dallas, was one of two rabbis who asked Obama questions during the call.

Reporting on Obama's words, Gershon said "he spoke about the complexities and dangers of the Middle East and the challenges facing the world."

"In general, he spoke about seeking our help in domestic issues, and more importantly foreign policy issues," added Gershon, saying he could not elaborate further given that the call was off the record.

In one of the two questions, Obama was asked by rabbis about the challenge of demilitarizing Hamas and preventing it from using reconstruction materials for terrorist means, such as using cement to build terror tunnels - an activity it reportedly has already re-engaged in.

Obama responded by describing efforts to ensure aid does not fall into Hamas hands; just last Tuesday Israel agreed to a UN proposal allowing construction materials into Gaza with some sort of oversight mechanism.

That same Tuesday the ceasefire was breached by Gaza mortar fire, although Hamas, which has breached numerous ceasefires, denied involvement and said it arrested the perpetrators.

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