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Abbas to dine with pro-Israel leaders tonight

Leading Jewish Americans are reportedly just about fed up with the government of Turkey, but many of them are still very much interested in working with the Palestinian Authority and will meet with President Mahmoud Abbas tonight. The S. David Abraham Center for Middle East Peace is hosting a private dinner for Abbas this evening ...

MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images

Leading Jewish Americans are reportedly just about fed up with the government of Turkey, but many of them are still very much interested in working with the Palestinian Authority and will meet with President Mahmoud Abbas tonight.

The S. David Abraham Center for Middle East Peace is hosting a private dinner for Abbas this evening that will bring together more than 30 Jewish community leaders and former officials to schmooze with Abbas, including former national security advisors Stephen Hadley and Sandy Berger and former White House Middle East hand Elliott Abrams. The event's host is the center's president, former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler, who is widely rumored to be soon appointed the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.

"The meeting tonight, it's all for the purpose of supporting the administration's effort to enable the Palestinians and Israelis to come together to engage in direct talks in a serious fashion about substantive issue related to final status issues," Wexler told The Cable.

Leading Jewish Americans are reportedly just about fed up with the government of Turkey, but many of them are still very much interested in working with the Palestinian Authority and will meet with President Mahmoud Abbas tonight.

The S. David Abraham Center for Middle East Peace is hosting a private dinner for Abbas this evening that will bring together more than 30 Jewish community leaders and former officials to schmooze with Abbas, including former national security advisors Stephen Hadley and Sandy Berger and former White House Middle East hand Elliott Abrams. The event’s host is the center’s president, former Florida Congressman Robert Wexler, who is widely rumored to be soon appointed the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.

“The meeting tonight, it’s all for the purpose of supporting the administration’s effort to enable the Palestinians and Israelis to come together to engage in direct talks in a serious fashion about substantive issue related to final status issues,” Wexler told The Cable.

Regarding the Gaza flotilla incident that has dominated the headlines for weeks, Wexler said the Jewish community’s message will be: “It cannot or should not be an excuse or the mechanism in which to undermine the proximity talks.”

The Obama administration has fought hard to protect those indirect talks, led by Middle East peace envoy George Mitchell, from becoming a casualty of the flotilla affair, but is growing impatient about what has been nearly a year and a half of little progress. President Obama echoed Wexler’s call for constructiveness in comments after meeting with Abbas, and urged the Palestinian leader to come to the table and negotiate with Israel.

“President Abbas and I spent most of our time discussing how do we solve the problem. One of the things that we see is that so often rhetoric, when it comes to issues in the Middle East, outstrip actually solving issues,” he said. Regarding Gaza, he said, “the status quo that we have is one that is inherently unstable.”

Abbas also argued that the Palestinians want to move to direct talks and don’t have any preconditions.

“We are not saying that we have conditions. What has happened is that we agreed that should progress be achieved, then we would move on to direct talks,” he said. “We are working in order to make progress.”

According to comments yesterday by the PLO’s representative in Washington, however, the Palestinian side will not move to direct talks with the Israelis until they engage on “fundamental issues” — meaning borders, Jerusalem, and the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

Regarding anger in the Jewish-American community at how Turkey has handled the Gaza flotilla crisis, Wexler said it was nothing compared with Turkey’s vote against the U.N. Security Council resolution on Iran sanctions today.

“I respect and admire the American Jewish community’s engagement over the years with the government of Turkey. But I regret deeply the vote that Turkey made at the U.N. Security Council today,” he said. “It is a significant setback in American-Turkish relations. It cannot be sugar coated.”

Wexler declined to comment in any way about his rumored appointment to Tel Aviv.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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