By Ron Kampeas · June 6, 2012
WASHINGTON (JTA) -- President Obama is spreading the word, one Jewish constituency at a time: He has Israel's back.
Obama defended his record on Israel and on religious freedoms on Tuesday during a White House meeting with Orthodox leaders. Challenged by one of those leaders on the efficacy of his perceived even-handedness in dealing with Israel and the Palestinians, Obama countered that he has not been even-handed; he has favored Israel.
Obama's meeting was the second such encounter in a week; six days earlier he met with leaders of the Conservative movement.
The meetings come in an election year in which the Obama administration has intensified its Jewish outreach. Obama spoke to the Union for Reform Judaism's biennial in December, and then to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. Vice President Joe Biden addressed the Conservative movement's Rabbinical Assembly in May, and later the same month hosted a briefing day for about 70 leaders convened by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The last two meetings have come in the form of informal "drop-bys" on meetings that various Jewish umbrella groups routinely convene with Jack Lew, his Jewish chief of staff. White House meetings have been commonplace for decades, and generally take place once or twice a year with the presidential adviser designated as the senior outreach official for Jewish groups.
Although Obama's "drop-by" at the last two meetings was described as informal by Jewish and White House officials, it seemed to be carefully planned. The Orthodox Union leaders arrived prepared with a gift for the president.
Obama's outreach, particularly on Tuesday to the Orthodox leaders -- whose constituency increasingly tends to favor Republicans -- fits in with a strategy that senior Democratic officials have in the past described as tamping down pockets of hostility as much as it is about cultivating the party's natural base in the Jewish community.
The meeting Tuesday, convened by the OU, was friendly, in depth and constructive, participants on all sides said.
Whiny little dweeb MJ Rosenberg complained about the President not excluding this group of Jews from all White House affairs. He Tweeted: Why does Obama pursue the 10-20% of Jews who will NEVER vote 4 him (echoing GOP dumbass James Baker's famous remark "F*** the Jews, they didn't vote for us anyway")