WASHINGTON – US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Sunday that there are elements among the Jewish community in the United States who believe that being pro-Israeli meant agreeing with the Likud's stances.
Speaking at an Ohio synagogue, the senator from Illinois said that the things he heard from Jewish Americans were different from the variety of opinions and real debate being held within Israel
regarding the ways to solve the conflict.
In a closed meeting with Jewish leaders in Cleveland, the leading Democratic presidential candidate said, "I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud
approach to Israel that you're anti-Israel and that can't be the measure of our friendship with Israel."
JTA, the Global News Service of the Jewish People, reported that Obama also told the Jewish leaders that "if we cannot have a honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we're not going to make progress."
The senator is currently under heavy pressure by Republicans and sources close to his rival Hillary Clinton, who have been spreading rumors on the media that he has surrounded himself by anti-Israeli advisors, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security advisor in the Carter administration.
Obama. 'If we can't have a honest dialogue, we won't make progress' (Photo: Reuters)
In his meeting with the Jewish leaders, Obama explained that he had gained Brzezinski's support due to their shared agreement that the war in Iraq was "an enormous strategic blunder", but clarified that he did not share the former advisor's view with respect to Israel.
Obama warned against the attacks directed at anyone who does not share the Israeli Right's opinions.
"If we are never ever going to ask any difficult questions about how we move peace forward or secure Israel that is non military or non belligerent or doesn't talk about just crushing the opposition that that somehow is being soft or anti-Israel, I think we're going to have problems moving forward," the senator said, clarifying that he had heard diverse opinions in his meetings with Israelis and Americans.
"There is a very honest, thoughtful debate taking place inside Israel. All of you, I'm sure, have experienced this when you travel there. Understandably, because of the pressure that Israel is under, I think the US pro-Israel community is sometimes a little more protective or concerned about opening up that conversation. But all I'm saying though is that actually ultimately should be our goal, to have that same clear eyed view about how we approach these issues," Obama added.
Ralph Nader, who recently announced
that he was joining the White House race as an independent candidate, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that Obama had changed his opinions since beginning his campaign, going from pro-Palestinian to pro-Israeli.
"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 said.
Meanwhile Sunday, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan said that Obama was the "hope of the entire world" that the US would change for the better.
The 74-year-old Farrakhan, addressing an estimated crowd of 20,000 people at the annual Saviours' Day celebration, never outrightly endorsed the presidential candidate but spent most of the nearly two-hour speech praising the Illinois senator.
"This young man is the hope of the entire world that America will change and be made better," he said. "This young man is capturing audiences of black and brown and red and yellow. If you look at Barack Obama's audiences and look at the effect of his words, those people are being transformed."
The Associated Press contributed to this report