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Obama meets US Jewish leaders ahead of Israel trip

March 8, 2013 9:58 A.M. (Updated: March 11, 2013 5:33 P.M.)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- US President Barack Obama hosted leaders of major American Jewish organizations at the White House on Thursday as he sought to smooth the way for his first presidential visit to Israel later this month.

The meeting was a chance for Obama to preview his agenda for the trip, including the Iran nuclear standoff, Syria's civil war and Israel-Palestinian issues, and to reiterate his "unshakable support" for Israel, an administration official said.

Obama's outreach to prominent figures in the Jewish community could help ease any residual tensions following the 2012 election campaign. Republicans had accused the Democratic president of not being sufficiently supportive of Israel, Washington's closest ally in the Middle East.

But Obama has repeatedly stressed his commitment to Israel despite a sometimes testy relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"President Obama invited leaders from across the American Jewish community to discuss and get input about his upcoming trip to Israel," the official said.

"The president noted that the trip is not dedicated to resolving a specific policy issue, but is rather an opportunity to consult with the Israeli government about a broad range of issues -- including Iran, Syria, the situation in the region, and the peace process," the official said. "He also underscored that the trip is an opportunity for him to speak directly to the Israeli people."
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