04/21/2010 04:24 PM

World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder

'Obama Has Strongly Neglected the Relationship with Israel'

Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, recently attacked US President Barack Obama's Middle East policy in an open letter. Lauder talks to SPIEGEL about Israeli concessions to the Palestinians and why Obama is neglecting the US-Israeli relationship.

SPIEGEL: In an open letter that was recently published in advertisements in The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, you accused US President Barack Obama of having allowed a "dramatic deterioration" of relations with Israel. What do you mean?

Ronald Lauder: The Obama administration is blaming Israel for the stalling peace process, but it is in fact the Palestinians which are opposed to negotiations. Obama's criticism of Israel is disproportionate.

SPIEGEL: Isn't the Israeli government also to blame? After all, it announced the plan to expand a settlement in the eastern part of Jerusalem during US Vice President Joe Biden's visit.

Lauder: That was bad timing. But the Israeli government has made extraordinary concessions: It has accepted the idea of a Palestinian state, a moratorium on settlement building, and it has removed over a hundred roadblocks in the West Bank.

SPIEGEL: And yet, that lip service to a two-state solution was only paid following pressure by Obama. As a close friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, aren't you biased?

Lauder: On this, I don't represent my friend, but Jews world-wide. I would have written the same letter if someone else were prime minister in Jerusalem. Over his attempts to engage the Muslim world, Obama has strongly neglected the relationship with Israel.

SPIEGEL: At least he has said that a solution to the Middle East conflict was in the "national security interest" of the US.

Lauder: His main concern should be Iran. The regime in Tehran is threatening Israel and the entire Western world with its plans to build a nuclear bomb. That is why Obama should end his feud with Israel.

Interview conducted by Christoph Schult


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