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Obama and Israel: The Verdict From the Jewish Weeklies

By Daniel Treiman

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The unease in some sectors of the Jewish community about how Barack Obama would handle U.S. policy toward Israel has been a hot story for Jewish newspapers, and this past week several of their editors weighed in on the ongoing communal jibber-jabber.

The New Jersey Jewish News’s Andrew Silow-Carroll says that some pro-Israel voters want “to know that candidates feel for Israel in their guts — their kishkes.”

But, he adds:

…it’s curious, and troubling, that a good record and good rhetoric are no longer enough to establish a politician’s pro-Israel credentials.

I worry that by shifting the goal lines and disparaging our friends, we risk alienating pro-Israel politicians in both parties.”

The Philadelphia Jewish Exponent’s more right-leaning executive editor, Jonathan Tobin, writes:

Obama’s question-and-answer session with members of the Jewish community in Cleveland was fascinating and remarkably candid. It also should go a long ways toward reassuring voters that an Obama administration would not rupture the U.S.-Israel alliance.

He told them that he supports Israel’s existence unconditionally and views its security as non-negotiable. He wants to eliminate the threat to Israel from the radical regime in Iran which has vowed to destroy it. Though he favors diplomacy to back off Tehran, he says that he won’t negotiate with Hamas so long as it refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist. He also says all the people that he listens to on Middle East policy are stalwart friends of Israel.

He continues:

Everybody satisfied? Well, we should be. These statements place him well within the range of pro-Israel opinion in this country.

Saying all this earned Obama his pro-Israel merit badge. Yet that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask him to clarify his positions in the coming months.

The editors of Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish Press, however, aren’t satisfied — and they hammer Obama on a variety of issues. (The Jewish Press also adds some more fuel to the anti-Obama fire with an article on the candidate’s past association with Palestinian-American academic Rashid Khalidi.)

The New York Jewish Week’s Gary Rosenblatt had previously argued that the three leading presidential contenders are basically “the same on Israel.”


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