In conciliatory gesture, Bush sends letter to Jewish groups


WASHINGTON -- President Bush has sent a conciliatory letter to U.S. Jewish groups in hopes of calming the uproar over proposed U.S. loan guarantees for Israel.

After Mr. Bush lashed out at the "powerful political forces" opposing him on the loan guarantees, Shoshana S. Cardin, chairwoman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, wrote a letter that called his remarks disturbing.

Alarmed by the outcry and by what an official said was the anti-Semitic tone of some letters and calls supporting his position, Mr. Bush wrote back: "I am concerned that some of my comments at the Thursday press conference caused apprehension within the Jewish community. My references to lobbyists and powerful political forces were never meant to be pejorative in any sense."

Mrs. Cardin said that she was satisfied by the letter. The response "shows his sensitivity and reaffirms that we have more in common than areas in which we disagree," she said.

But Henry Siegman, executive director of the American Jewish Congress, said: "I think there are ruffled feelings and a sense that the president was at least thoughtless."

Mr. Bush's letter was described by a senior official as an attempt to "get the issue back into a conventional public policy dispute as opposed to an unprecedented challenge by a president to the ZTC power of the pro-Israel lobby."

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