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Obama gaining supporters Photo: AP
Obama gaining supporters Photo: AP
 
 

Obama woos Jewish voters

Democratic candidate perceived as genuine friend of Israel, say Jewish leaders

Yaakov Lappin
Published: 03.09.07, 19:57 / Israel News

Senator Barack Obama is fast dispelling apprehensions that may have been held by some US Jewish voters about his candidacy for the US presidency.

 

His energetic campaign and charismatic personality have managed to sweep many Democrats to his side, and recent polls place Barack neck and neck with Democratic competitor Hillary Clinton.

 

Barack's recent speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in Chicago at the beginning of March has, at the very least, secured his position as a genuine friend of the State of Israel, Jewish leaders have told Ynetnews.

 

During the speech, Barack recounted a visit to Israel in 2006, and described the damage he saw caused to a home in Kiryat Shmona by a Hizbullah rocket before the Lebanon war.

 

"Just six months after I visited, Hezbollah launched 4,000 rocket attacks just like the one that destroyed that home in Kiryat Shmona and kidnapped Israeli service members," Obama said.

 

"And we pray for all the service members who have been kidnapped. Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev, and Ehud Goldwasser. I met with the Goldwasser family this week in my office, and I offered to help in any way I could. And I was struck by the bravery and determination, but the understandable welling sadness of a family who had heard nothing about their beloved son.

 

It's important to remember this history -- that Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from Lebanon only to have Iran to supply Hizbullah with thousands of rockets," he added.

 

Josh Block, Director of Media Relations at AIPAC, said that Obama's speech was "certainly well received."

 

"Senator Obama has a strong record on issues of importance to the pro-Israel community from his time in the Senate," Block added.

 

A pro-Israel activist in Washington, who wished to remain anonymous, said that Barack's address "was very good."

 

"His speech contained a lot of important elements: Strong support for the US-Israel relationship, as well as underscored support for US aid to Israel."

 

"Israel faces touch challenges in region," the source said, adding: "Obama refused to take all options off table when it comes to dealing with Iran. That's a smart thing to do, as it provides maximum leverage in the effort to persuade Iran to disarm."

 

'Very bright and likeable'

Nathan Diament, Director of Public Affairs at the Orthodox Union, is more familiar with Obama than most. Diament and Obama both attended Harvard Law school, and spent time playing basketball with one another.

 

"In an 'only in America' kind of way did I, a rabbi's son, get to know the first (future) viable black candidate for president by playing a fair amount of pick-up basketball with him," Diament told Ynetnews. "My recollections are: he was very bright and likeable," he added.

 

"Based on more recent conversations I've had with him, I believe his support for Israel is genuine and not a cynical 'vote getting' tactic. Of course, what it means to be 'pro-Israel' is, in this day and age, somewhat contested among Jews and Israelis - there are doves and hawks etc. Obama is clearly in the mainstream of the range of views," Diament said.

 

"In his speech to an AIPAC forum in Chicago last week, Obama staked out clear positions that most supporters of Israel will welcome," he added.

 

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