WASHINGTON – Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel
is one of US President Barack Obama's most important assets in the 2012 presidential race.
While many, including Obama himself, struggle to explain to the voters the scope of the problems the president inherited from predecessor Gorge W. Bush
– including a failing economy, two wars, and a myriad of internal crises – Emanuel, was able to sum up Obama's first term with one sentence: Osama bin Laden
is dead and General Motors is alive.
With only days left until Americans cast their votes, the Obama campaign has sent Emanuel, who served as White House chief of staff for the administration's first two years, on a mission to the two most influential swing states
– Florida and Ohio.
The two are home to a large number of Jewish
voters, who may prove to hold the deciding vote in the close race vis-à-vis Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
As mayor of the US' third-largest city and a former congressman, Emanuel can address burning domestic issues; and as the son of a former Irgun man, who has expressed his deep ties and commitment to Israel,
he can also reassure the nervous Jewish voters that Obama is good for the Jewish state.
The question of Obama's tense relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and the administration's overall attitude towards Israel is often presented when Emanuel addresses Jewish voters.
He explains to them what Obama has done, and plans to do, for Israel and illustrates how involved the president is in bolstering US-Israel strategic ties and military cooperation; as well as how he pushed to speed up the development and deployment of Iron Dome
batteries in Israel.
"The president is a friend of the State of Israel. He has been that as a senator and as a president," Emanuel said in an interview with Ynet.
He wasted no time addressing the Iranian threat: "When it comes to the issue of Iran,
when the president got into office, the US was isolated from the world, and Iran was out for nuclear weapons.
"Today the tables have turned. Iran is isolated from the rest of the world, and that's because of the leadership of one man – the president. One man determined to set his policy of crippling sanctions
"It was the president of the United States who achieved that. Everybody questioned why the US doesn’t do this or that, while Iran attempts to acquire a nuclear weapon, with all the related existential and security threats to the State of Israel. People are not questioning the US anymore, they question Iran."
Emanuel is convinced that "the steady organizing by the president of the United States to isolate Iran is working beyond people expectations," on both the economic and political front.
Still, the former White House chief does not digress from the party line when it comes to the chances of a US strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Declaring war, he said, needs the public's support in both Israel and the United States. Emanuel said that he has seen polls indicating that many in the IDF,
as well as in the Israeli public are against a strike.
"The president is determined that all the options are on the table and he is using economic and diplomatic isolation, crippling sanctions, to force Iran to make some choices here, that in the past they could avoided making. And now, Iran is economically crippled and politically unstable."
Should Obama be elected for a second term in office, Emanuel stressed that "He will continue to help Israel as we deal with the dramatic changes in the Arab world.
"Israel is our closest ally, not just strategically, but as two democracies… In the next four years, you will see a president that will protect Israel and deal with Iran."
Asked whether he found it difficult to explain Obama's achievements in regards to the US economy, he said: "I just left Toledo, Ohio, and I don't think explaining that was hard in Toledo, that's dependent on the auto industry.
"Unemployment is just under 7%. When the president came to office in was 10% in Ohio. The Chrysler auto plant will have a third shift in the coming months, so they get it. We are doing very well in north-west Ohio.
"People understand what the president has done in the last four years and how it influenced on their live." Unemployment, he added, has steadily dropped from 10% to 7% and that improvement has been holding steady.
The situation in Florida, he explained, is more complicated: "The problem in Florida is what happened to the housing industry. There is progress but (their) not out of the woods yet."
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