Oba­maout­to­prove pro-Is­rael cre­den­tials


AS DEMO­CRATIC pres­i­den­tial hope­ful Barack Obama moves to­ward se­cur­ing his party’s nom­i­na­tion, at­tacks on the can­di­date’s views on Is­rael and the Mid­dle East are in­ten­si­fy­ing.

Mr Obama, who is now on a col­li­sion course with Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush and with Repub­li­can nom­i­nee John McCain over his more equiv­o­cal pol­icy on Ha­mas and Iran, has made a point of an­swer­ing ev­ery at­tack and of in­creas­ing his ef­fort to prove his proIs­rael cre­den­tials to the US Jewish com­mu­nity.

The latest flare-up in­volved Pres­i­dent Bush’s visit to Is­rael last week, in which he warned the Knes­set against those try­ing “to ap­pease” ex­trem­ists and ter­ror­ists, com­par­ing them to politi­cians who sought to ap­pease Hitler. The Obama camp, and the en­tire Demo­cratic Party, un­der­stood the re­marks as a ref­er­ence to Mr Obama’s state­ment he would en­ter into talks with Iran if elected pres­i­dent. The word­ing and venue of Pres­i­dent Bush’s re­marks led to a harsh re­sponse from Mr Obama, who called them “dis­hon­est, di­vi­sive at­tacks”. Demo­cratic lead­ers also crit­i­cised Pres­i­dent Bush for deal­ing with in­ter­nal pol­i­tics while on an of­fi­cial visit abroad.

Mr Obama is also fac­ing con­tin­u­ous at­tacks from Mr McCain, who claims he is weak on deal­ing with Iran and the favourite can­di­date of Ha­mas.

Sources on the Obama cam­paign said last week that the Illi­nois sen­a­tor will con­tinue his ef­fort to counter th­ese at­tacks. Con­gress­man Robert Wexler, a Florida Demo­crat and one of Mr Obama’s strong­est sup­port­ers in the Jewish com­mu­nity, said the can­di­date does not in­tend to slow down his drive to win over Jewish votes.

“Our goal is to out-per­form John Kerry in the Jewish com­mu­nity,” Mr Wexler said, re­fer­ring to the 2004 Demo­cratic can­di­date who won 76 per cent of the Jewish votes in the pres­i­den­tial race.

A re­cent Gallup poll found Mr Barack al­most tied with Hil­lary Clin­ton in Jewish sup­port and way ahead of Mr McCain. Yet Demo­cratic con­sul­tant Matt Dorf said he be­lieved Mr Barack’s ef­forts within the Jewish com­mu­nity are jus­ti­fied. “He is fac­ing out­ra­geous lies about his views on the Mid­dle East and he is deal­ing with them in a smart and tar­geted way,” Mr Dorf said.

Th­e­se­ef­fort­sreachedtheir peak ear­lier this month dur­ing Is­rael’s 60th In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions. Mr Obama showed up un­ex­pect­edly Is­raeli em­bassy party in Wash­ing­ton, and spoke pas­sion­ately in favour of strong US-Is­raeli re­la­tions.

He also gave in­ter­views to Is­raeli TV sta­tions and to Jewish colum­nists, talk­ing about his long-last­ing ties with Is­rael and the im­pact that Is­raeli and Jewish au­thors had on his world view. How­ever, vet­eran lob­by­ist and po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Doug Bloom­field be­lieves the ef­fect will be just like chicken soup. “It will prob­a­bly not help much, but it won’t do any harm,” he said.

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