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Jumaat, 23 Mei 2008

Luar Negara: Obama Aims to Mollify Jewish Voters on Israel Stance

Heidi Przybyla and Julianna Goldman, May 22 (Bloomberg)
Barack Obama today will try to assuage Jewish voters who are concerned about his support for Israel, some of his foreign-policy advisers, his association with a former pastor and even his middle name. ``This issue is not one that gets explained away by a speech,'' said David Naftaly, an activist from Maryland who serves on the executive board of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a Washington-based pro-Israel lobby. Many Jews, he said, are particularly worried about the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, who has made comments they view as anti-Israel.
``Jews Must Choose Between Obama and Israel'' was the title of an essay published recently by activist Ted Belman, who runs a pro-Israel blog, Israpundit.com. Obama, 46, will discuss Middle East issues at a synagogue in Boca Raton, Florida, to defuse the criticism, which his campaign said ignores a consistent pro-Israel record. The Democratic presidential candidate has repeatedly expressed his commitment to Israel's security and has rejected the Palestinians' demand for the right of return. He also backs a plan that has angered Palestinians to move the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv, and recently drafted legislation calling for the economic isolation of Iran.
Representative Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat and one of the Illinois senator's strongest Jewish supporters, said Obama would talk about his staunch support for Israel and outline his commitment to thwarting Iran's quest for a nuclear weapon. `A-Plus Record' Obama has an ``A-plus record'' on Israel, said Wexler, 47. ``This is going to be a big boost.'' Traditionally, Jews have overwhelmingly favored Democratic candidates, yet Obama isn't doing as well with these voters as some of his predecessors. In a recent Gallup poll, Obama gets the support of 61 percent of Jewish voters, compared with 32 percent for the presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain. The last Republican to score that high was Ronald Reagan, who had 40 percent in 1980. The gap could make a difference in swing states with large Jewish populations such as Florida and Pennsylvania.
Obama's critics have gone after him, pointing to everything from his associations to Internet rumors that cite his middle name, Hussein, as evidence that he is Muslim. `Voting Record' Much of the criticism of Obama ``is not about his voting record; it's about his mindset, his temperament and his background,'' said J.J. Goldberg, editor of the Forward, a New York-based Jewish newspaper. ``People are freaked by his middle name'' and ``they're not examining the source'' of the information. There have also been distortions of his positions. Critics twisted Obama's comments in a recent interview with the Washington-based Atlantic magazine in which he called tensions in the Middle East a ``constant sore.'' Blogs and House Minority Leader John Boehner said Obama was referring to Israel.
Boehner's comments were repudiated by Peter Wehner, a former director of the White House's Office of Strategic Initiatives under President George W. Bush. In an article on the Web site of Commentary magazine, Wehner said Obama ``went out of his way to praise Israel'' in the interview and called on Boehner, an Ohio Republican, to ``correct the record.''
Hamas Leader The criticism of Obama gathered steam last month when a Hamas official, Ahmed Yousef, said: ``We like Mr. Obama and we hope that he will win the election.'' McCain, 71, seized on the comments and cast Obama as the preferred candidate of the Islamic Palestinian group, which is listed as a terrorist organization by the State Department.
In South Dakota last week, Obama said he has ``been crystal-clear time and time again that, until Hamas renounced violence, recognized Israel and abided by previous agreements, we should not deal with Hamas.'' Some of the complaints are more substantive. Obama's foes are highlighting his stated policy of meeting with Iranian leaders during his first year in office and his ties to supporters such as former National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski and General Tony McPeak, who some Jews say are critical of Israel. Obama has distanced himself from Brzezinski.
Now, the Obama campaign is emphasizing his pro-Israel record. In 2006, he cosponsored a resolution endorsing Israel's right to self defense and condemning Hamas and Hezbollah. That same year, Obama was a co-sponsor of the Palestinian Anti- Terrorism Act, which discouraged international aid to Hamas. Israel's Security In 2007, Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and reiterated his commitment to Israel's security. More recently, at a May 8 celebration of Israel's 60th birthday, Obama said the U.S. commitment to that nation's security is ``unshakeable.''
Wexler also pointed out Obama's speech at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta this year when he called on the black community to examine its prejudices, including anti-Semitism. In March, Obama picked the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, as the venue to deliver the first foreign-policy speech of his presidential candidacy. ``He's not new to this issue,'' said Seymour Reich, a former president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations who supports Obama's Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York. ``Obama, even before the Wright issue, was in Ramallah and spoke in support of Israel to Palestinians directly'' and ``his base of support in Chicago is from a large Jewish community,'' Reich said.

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