Tim Butcher – “Barack Obama uses Israel visit to reassure Jewish voters”


Barack Obama uses Israel visit to reassure Jewish voters
Senator Barack Obama used a visit to Israel today to reassure its people and Jewish voters at home that he would not undermine the traditionally close links between America and its key ally in the Middle East.

Tim Butcher | July 24, 2008

Throughout a hectic day Mr Obama repeatedly drove home the message that a White House led by him would continue to back Israel.

It appeared to be a pre-emptive strike against Right-wing Republicans who hint at Mr Obama’s weakness on the issue of militant Islam by using such devices as repeatedly referring to his middle name, which is Hussein.

But on the Iranian nuclear programme, Palestinian terrorism, the status of Jerusalem and all other issues he stuck closely to the script of robustly supporting Israel.

Mr Obama also deliberately did something his Republican rival, Senator John McCain, failed to do during a recent visit to Israel, by aligning himself with the moderate Palestinian leadership of Mahmoud Abbas.

While Mr McCain did not visit the occupied territories, Mr Obama went to Ramallah in the West Bank to meet Mr Abbas, the president of the Palestinian national authority. He also denounced Mr Abbas’s militant Hamas rivals, who control Gaza.

While this went down well with his hosts, his intended audience was Jewish voters in America who, according to analysts, threaten his chances in the presidential election if they judge him a weak supporter of Israel.

Aluf Benn, a leading columnist in the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, caught the true flavour of the visit in a piece headlined “Obama Visit Is All About Wooing Jewish American Voters”.

Mr Obama used a visit to Sderot, an Israeli town often hit by rockets fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza, to make clear his opposition to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons and his willingness to consider military action to enforce it.

“A nuclear Iran would pose a grave threat and the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” said Mr Obama.

He added the international community should offer “big sticks and big carrots” to persuade Iran to halt its nuclear programme.

If elected, the Democratic Party candidate said he would take “no options off the table” in dealing with the issue of nuclear-armed Iran. This was a direct reference to the option of a military strike.

On the issue of Jerusalem he said he supported Israel’s claim to the city as its capital but he added that the final arrangements for the city would be dealt with by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.

“I continue to say that Jerusalem will be the capital of Israel,” he said.

“I have said it before and will say it again … but I’ve also said that it is a final status issue that has to be dealt with by the parties involved.”

This was subtly different from the last time he dealt publicly with Jerusalem when, in a speech to American supporters of Israel, he angered Palestinian moderates by pre-judging negotiations and saying an undivided Jerusalem should be the Israeli capital.

Throughout Israel yesterday he enjoyed the sort of adulation normally given to rock stars, let alone actual heads of state.

It was a deliberate strategy to win the backing the Jewish voters in America who chose Hilary Clinton over the Illinois senator during the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

“The most important thing for me to share is the historic and special relationship between the United States and Israel, one that cannot be broken,” he said.

“One that I have affirmed throughout my career and one that I will intend to not only continue but strengthen in an Obama administration.”

After a breakfast meeting with Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, he moved to a meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu, leader of the Israeli opposition Likud party, before meeting Shimon Peres, Israel’s president.

He also squeezed in a visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

His movements were met with the sort of security used by Israel for President George W. Bush’s two visits to the Jewish state earlier this year.

Unlike Mr Bush, Mr Obama brought with him an entourage of US television network anchors and their support staff, all of whom added to appalling traffic snarl-ups in the notoriously congested streets of Jerusalem.

“I’m here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States and my abiding commitment to Israel’s security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner, whether as a U.S. senator or as president,” he said after his meeting with Mr Peres.

Mr Obama praised Mr Peres, a veteran of the Israeli political scene who served terms as the country’s prime minister before reaching the presidency, the head of state.

“For most of Israel’s 60 years, you have been deeply involved in this miracle that has blossomed and we are extremely grateful, not just as Americans but as world citizens, to your outstanding service to your country and the insight that you have shared with us,” Sen Obama said.

President Peres urged Sen Obama to be a great president for the sake of the battles against terror and world poverty.

During his meeting with Mr Netanyahu, Mr Obama was reported to have given a very robust defence of the need to fight extremism.

Less than a day before his arrival, an Arab from East Jerusalem, drove a construction digger at vehicles full of people just a few hundred yards from where Mr Obama was staying, injuring 16 people. The driver was shot dead.

“I’ll never compromise Israel’s security,” he said

“Terrorism is not theoretical, it’s right here a block away from this hotel, and it must be fought with full force and strength.”

His arrival in Israel has been met with gushing editorials in the local media with one commentator writing that if Sen Obama wins the presidency “every decision that he takes will affect our lives”.

Itamar Eichner wrote in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper: “Barack Obama landed at Ben-Gurion Airport, and out of the plane stepped Barack Obama, like a rock star, into a particularly emotional reception.

“Israel’s political echelon has never been so excited to welcome an American senator.

“Everybody realises that there is quite a good chance that this man will enter the White House in less than five months, and every decision that he takes will affect our lives.”

A senior Downing Street source said that they had never intended there to be a televised press conference with Mr Obama.

“We are following protocol. The reality is Prime Ministers do not hold press conferences with people unless they are elected or heads of state. There will be a photo-call in Downing Street in the usual way.”

Published in: on July 26, 2008 at 1:26 PM  Comments (1)  

The URI to TrackBack this entry is: https://digitizedrevolution.wordpress.com/2008/07/26/tim-butcher-barack-obama-uses-israel-visit-to-reassure-jewish-voters/trackback/

RSS feed for comments on this post.

One CommentLeave a comment

  1. The Jerusalem Dilemma: Israel, Arabs, and Persians

    Obama stated that Jerusalem would remain the capital of Israel and that he would not see the city divided. The issue of Jerusalem is complex and can not be made by Senator Obama or Israel alone. What are the options?

    – The two-state model for Palestine and Israel
    – Federal State of Israel-Palestine

    The two-state models for Palestinian and Israeli is not working. Many experts on the Middle Eastern politics and people would suggest that a two state solution in not viable model. We have struggled with it for nearly 60 years.

    Should we be looking at the region as a Federal States with one government elected by all of the people? This model may have a much better chance of survival as a solution for both Israeli and Arabs.
    We have been forced into one box by the Israeli Lobby; we need to look outside of this box. We can’t afford war after war to support a failed two-state model.

    Both Jewish and Palestinians have paid a high price for a failed system to consider the human side of the Israeli-Jewish struggle for a lasting peace.
    I suggest that only as one nation, Federal State of Israel-Palestine, the peace may endure. We, Americans, have failed to see the both side of the struggle for a lasting peace. As Semitic people, they have common historical and religious heritage.
    Obama made it clear that Jerusalem would remain the capital of Israel and that he would not see the city divided. Those who advocate one-state solution as a Federal State would also suggest Jerusalem as the capital of the Federation.

    The advocates for one-state solution stress that under a two-state solution, Jerusalem can not be the capital of Israel. This city is religious holy city belonging to Jews, Muslims and Christians. This city should not be controlled by a theocratic Jewish state; in that case, it should be an open international city.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: