26 February 2007 - Obama gives the game away
It's been a while since I posted--I've been in South Africa, where wireless Internet access is somewhat scarce. The trip was quite fascinating, and perhaps deserves a post all its own.
Returning to the U.S. presidential election, Ha'aretz has been following up questions about Barack Obama's stance on Israel. Shmuel Rosner tracked down Harvard's Samantha Power (no mean feat), who advises Obama on foreign policy issues. Power seemed to back away from remarks unearthed by Noah Pollak (no relation) suggesting that the U.S. invade Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Obama, however, in a recent remark about Israeli politics: "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel."
Rosner notes the implication here: that Obama's support for Israel is conditional. He is perhaps too polite to observe that Obama is also buying into the Walt-Mearsheimer image of the "Israel lobby." I know some right-wing, pro-Likud Americans who would describe a pro-Labor or pro-Kadima presidential candidate as "bad for Israel," but I know of none that would dismiss such a candidate out of hand as "anti-Israel."
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Obama keeps having to explain his position on Israel to the Jewish community. He recently backed away from his advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and the anti-Israel, pro-Farrakhan views of his pastor Jeremiah Wright, whom he said "is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I don't agree with."
However, he refuses to break his ties with Wright. That, more than any smear campaign doing the rounds, is why people continue to worry about Obama's stance.
The only defense Obama has available to him is that Ralph Nader has entered the presidential race, partly because the rest of the candidates, in his view, are too pro-Israel, including Obama: "He was pro-Palestinian when he was in Illinois... Now he's supporting (right-wing Israeli policies that thwart progress toward peace in the Middle East)," Nader says.
Anxiety over Obama's support for Israel is one of the reasons that Jewish expatriates who vote Democratic support Clinton over Obama, bucking the general trend. McCain would be a clearer and better choice, but it may be that few Jewish voters are yet willing to break the psychological barrier that prevents the community from adopting a truly independent and potent political posture.