By Bill Turque,
Anger over the Obama administration’s stance on Israel has triggered a nasty fight at a predominantly Jewish country club in the Washington suburbs over whether to offer a membership to the president after he leaves office.
Some members of the Woodmont Country Club, in Rockville, Md., are particularly furious about Obama’s decision last month not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution that criticized Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and about Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s speech two days later accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of undermining the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by continuing to expand settlements.
Woodmont members are reluctant to discuss the matter publicly. But a string of scorching emails to club president Barry Forman, made available for The Post’s review by a person with close ties to club members, capture the passions in the debate within the Jewish community over Obama’s approach to the Middle East.
“He has created a situation in the world where Israel’s very existence is weakened and possibly threatened . . .” longtime member Faith Goldstein wrote on Dec. 26. “He is not welcome at Woodmont. His admittance would create a storm that could destroy our club . . .”
Goldstein, who operates a promotional and marketing firm, declined to discuss her email or the dispute, which was first reported in the New York Post. “I am sorry but at this point it is best to let sleeping dogs lie,” she said in an email message. “It is not a story. It is a family quarrel and no one’s business.”
Forman also declined to comment. “At this time, I will not engage in a dialogue,” he said in an email Wednesday.
There has been no official indication that Obama, who as president has done most of his playing on the course at Andrews Air Force Base, has even sought a membership at Woodmont.
But the outgoing president has played at least four times at the lush enclave off Rockville Pike, and Politico reported last summer that Woodmont was seen as his likely golf course of choice once he returned to private life. The White House did not return emails about the matter.
Democratic activist and club member Jeffrey Slavin, an Obama supporter, sent a letter to Forman this week that he copied to like-minded Woodmont members and local Jewish leaders outside the club, in which he threatened to organize a mass membership cancellation campaign if the president is not made welcome
“At this time it is my hope that you will take action immediately to erase this emerging stain on The Club’s stellar reputation,” wrote Slavin, a lifelong member of Woodmont whose father belonged there as well. “The folks opposed to President Obama’s membership should be ashamed of themselves.”
With an $80,000 membership initiation fee and $9,600 in annual dues, Woodmont’s 460 acres offer members an opportunity to golf, play tennis and socialize just a few miles from downtown Washington.
After Politico floated the possibility of Obama becoming a member at Woodmont, the Jewish newspaper The Forward followed with a story headlined: “Will Barack Obama Join the Jewiest Country Club in Washington ?”
Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, was quoted as saying: “How cool is it that the first African American president of the United States may well be joining a country club originally established because Jews couldn’t get in anywhere else?”
Halber, who is not Woodmont member, declined to comment on the opposition to the idea, which was first reported by the New York Post.
The emails among members shared with The Washington Post included a Dec. 15 message from Bethesda attorney Marc B. Abrams, who wrote that Forman had mentioned the possibility of Obama joining Woodmont and said the president’s stance on Israel should make it “inconceivable” that club leaders would entertain such an idea.
“If you have views on this matter, I would urge you to make them known quickly,” Abrams wrote. “Timing is critical.”
Additional emails followed.
Abrams did not respond to a phone message or two emails requesting comment for this article.
Simon Atlas, a former chair of the club’s admission’s committee, said he would be “honored” to have Obama as a member. He added that the club the club had never applied a political test for acceptance.
“A person’s political affiliation was never a consideration, said Atlas, former treasurer of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee. “We looked at [a person’s] philanthropy, at standing in the community, at reputation. These other things never came up.”