(the Kinder - Gentler Zionists) vs. Hillary's (bad cop) Zionists
"Obama '08" Yarmulkes - 800 AIPAC members
Obama and the Jews
By RON KAMPEAS, JTA
Friday, 04 January 2008
Ask about Barack Obama's natural constituencies, and you might hear
that he's the first black with a viable shot at the White House;
or about his Kenyan father and his childhood in Indonesia;
or the youthfulness of his followers;
or the millions of Oprah junkies swooning over his candidacy.
What you might not hear is that the Illinois senator, who made history
Thursday by winning the Democratic caucus in Iowa, has made
Jewish leaders an early stop at every stage in his political career.
In his first run for the Illinois Senate in 1996, he sought the
backing of Alan Solow, a top Chicago lawyer.
Eight years later, running for the U.S. Senate -- long before
he became the shoo-in, when he was running in a Democratic field
packed with a dozen candidates, including some Jews -
- one of his first meetings was with Robert Schrayer,
a top Jewish philanthropist in Chicago.
When he launched his campaign for the Democratic presidential
nomination in late 2006, he named as his fund-raising chief
Alan Solomont, the Boston Jewish philanthropist
who helped shepherd Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)
to the Democratic candidacy in 2004.
And he chose a gathering of the pro-Israel lobby,
the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, last March
to deliver his presidential candidacy's first foreign policy speech.
"Some of my earliest and most ardent supporters
came from the Jewish community in Chicago,"
Obama told JTA in 2004, after his keynote speech
galvanized the Democratic convention in Boston.
Three years later, addressing the National Jewish Democratic Council's
candidate's forum, he made the same point when he was asked
about his ties with Arab Americans and Muslim Americans in Chicago.
"My support within in the Jewish community has been much
more significant than my support within the Muslim community,"
Obama said at the April forum, adding:
"I welcome and seek the support of the Muslim and Arab communities."
His Jewish followers are fervent, distributing "Obama '08" Yarmulkes
early in his campaign.
His rock-star status as well as the relationships Obama has built
in the community have helped avoided murmurings
about his otherwise notable divergences from pro-Israel orthodoxies.
In his AIPAC speech, for example, Obama favored diplomacy
as a means of confronting Iran's suspected nuclear weapons program.
"While we should take no option, including military action, off the
table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough
sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building
nuclear weapons," he said.
AIPAC does not oppose diplomacy in engaging Iran, but dislikes it
as an emphasis, believing that talks could buy the Iranian regime
bomb-making time. But his words did not stop the Chicago hotel
ballroom packed with 800 AIPAC members from cheering Obama on.
A few weeks later, Obama drew more rubberneckers than
any other candidate attending AIPAC's policy forum in Washington -
- drawing away onlookers from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.)
although she outpolls Obama among Jewish voters.
No one winced when he said that Palestinian needs
must be considered in working out a peace deal,
although that's hardly standard AIPAC pep talk.
He made the same point at the NJDC event.
"It is in the interests of Israel to establish peace in the Middle
East," he said.
"It cannot be done at the price of compromising Israel's security,
and the United States government and an Obama presidency
cannot ask Israel to take risks with respect to its security.
But it can ask Israel to say that it is still possible for us to allow
more than just this status quo of fear, terror, division.
That can't be our long-term aspiration."
Early in his campaign, he handily killed an Israel-related controversy
in its early stages. At a chat he had said that
"no one has suffered more than the Palestinians."
Blame the leadership was what he meant, he later explained:
"What I said was, nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people
from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel,
to renounce violence and to get serious about negotiating peace
and security for the region," Obama said during an MSNBC debate.
Obama tempers his deviations from pro-Israel orthodoxy by going
an extra mile in areas where he agrees with groups such as AIPAC.
He has led the effort in the Senate to pass legislation
that would assist U.S. states that choose to divest from Iran.
His top Middle East adviser is Dennis Ross, who had the job
during the Clinton administration and who has since
principally blamed the Palestinian leadership
for the failure of the Oslo peace process.
And in recent speeches, Obama tweaked his pro-Israel rhetoric
to echo the recent drive by the Israeli government & pro-Israel groups
to insist on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
"I think everyone knows what the basic outlines of an agreement
would look like," he said in a speech redistributed by his campaign.
"It would mean that the Palestinians would have to reinterpret the
notion of right of return in a way that would preserve Israel as a
Jewish state. It might involve compensation and other concessions from
the Israelis, but ultimately Israel is not going to give up its state."
On domestic issues,
Obama is savvy about Jewish social justice commitments,
and is on a first name basis with two of the top
Jewish religious lobbyists in Washington -
- Rabbi David Saperstein of the Reform movement and
Nathan Diament, who represents the Orthodox Union.
But that connection is not enough to supplant Clinton among
Jewish voters. In a recent American Jewish Committee poll,
his favorable rating was 38 percent, while hers was 53 percent.
Clinton also has most of the Jewish congressional delegation
backing her. Her years as first lady and as senator have made her
a more familiar presence among Jews. Public policy groups
are likelier to favor her uncompromising approach
to pushing universal health care, as opposed to Obama's appeal
to build consensus on the issue.
Obama's appeal is in his broader vision, according to Solomont.
"This election will be about change: a change in government
and the way politics is conducted," he told JTA last May.
"There is a connection between gridlock
and the smallness of our politics."
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW
Need some good karma? Appreciate the service?
Please consider donating to WVNS today.
To leave this list, send an email to: