Sep 21, 2012 No Comments ›› Pat Dollard
(FOX Chicago News) -Defense Minister of Israel Ehud Barak had an unannounced, hour-long lunch with Mayor Emanuel at Chicago’s City Hall Thursday afternoon.
The meeting between Emanuel and Barak was as much of a surprise to news outlets in the Middle East as it was in Chicago.
Tensions are high as Israel threatens to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. Reporters in Jerusalem speculated that the defense minister gave the mayor a message for President Obama during their private, 1-on-1 lunch.
Mayor Emanuel accepted gifts from and signed a sister-city agreement with the mayor of Wuhan, China, late Thursday. He refused to discuss an earlier meeting with the Israeli Defense Minister.
Aides said the men have stayed in touch since they first met while Emanuel worked for President Clinton and through his stint as President Obama’s Chief of Staff.
A reporter for Israel’s Haaretz.com wrote that the defense minister gave Emanuel a message for President Obama from Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: Even though Netanyahu is close to Republican Mitt Romney, he “is not meddling in the (U.S.) elections.”
It may not look that way in South Florida, where a group calling itself “Secure America Now” has reserved a half-million dollars worth of air time for this ad featuring Netanyahu’s arguments for an attack soon on Iran’s nuclear facilities.
Top Iranian leaders have called for Israel’s destruction. The Obama Administration has insisted Israel must wait.
“Wait for what? Wait until when?” Netanyahu asks. “The world needs American strength, not apologies.”
That last line repeats a frequent Republican attack on the president. A spokesman said Netanyahu was not aware of the ad Secure America Now.
Haaretz.com reported that Ehud Barak also “told Emanuel that Netanyahu is unapologetic for his stance on Iran” on Thursday.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Emanuel said she did not know what he discussed during lunch with the Israeli minister. She said the two men had wanted to meet here about six months ago, but said that fell through.
Excerpted from Chicago Sun-Times: I’ve learned that Mayor Rahm Emanuel met Thursday with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak–who is delivering a message from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu–that he is not attempting to interfere in the U.S. elections on behalf of Mitt Romney.
Emanuel spokesman Sarah Hamilton confirmed that the meeting took place in Chicago’s City Hall starting at 1:15 p.m. Chicago time and lasting between 45 minutes and an hour. She added that Barak and Emanuel–who often has met with foreign dignitaries who are in Chicago–originally had intended to meet six months ago.
That being said–the Thursday meeting took place as Netanyahu is seen increasingly as making statements that raise questions about Obama’s commitment to defending Israel and preventing an Iranian nuclear strike–questions that could hurt Obama with Jewish voters.
Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, is in the U.S. to attend the Clinton Global Initiative and the upcoming United Nations General Assembly.
The Netanyahu camp complained that Obama would not meet with the prime minister while he was in the U.S. Netanyahu’s protestations that he was not taking sides in the presidential elections on U.S. Sunday morning shows a few days ago only fueled stories that he favored Romney–an old friend from their days as consultants in Boston.
Emanuel –whose father is an Israeli-American–is a logical conduit. He is the figure in the Obama orbit most familiar to the Israeli government–having served as a front-and-back channel while he was President Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
Emanuel earlier this month resigned as a co-chair of the Obama campaign in order to raise money for the SuperPac supporting Obama.