WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate reaffirms support for Israel, but backs Iran dialogue: Senator Barack Obama presented his views on Israel and the Middle East Monday in a phone conversation with Israeli and Jewish journalists.
As he reaffirmed his commitment to Israel, Obama spoke about his visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum: "This is something that was brought home to me during my visit to Israel, when I went to Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the power of the names, to see each name and the life it represents, to be overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of it I think spoke, not only to our strategic interests in Israel but also our deep moral commitments there."
Obama says he's committed to ensuring Israel's Jewish character (Photo: Reuters)
Referring to his discussions with the Jewish community, Obama said: "I'm reminded of not just Israel's long standing role as a democracy in the Middle East and the friendship between our governments but also the way in which the Jewish people have been able to transform themselves post WWII and the State of Israel's incredible resolve to face down the constant threats that it's faced."
Tough stance on Hamas
Obama declared that he objects to a Palestinian right of return into Israel and to negotiations with Islamic group Hamas as long as it clings to its current stance, which rejects Israel's right to exist. He added that he will make sure to guarantee Israel's security should he be elected president.
"I've also repeatedly made clear that I'm committed to ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish state and that's why I've pledged my personal leadership in a process to establish two states living side by side in peace and security," he said.
Turning his attention to the Jerusalem question, Obama said that the contentious issue will be settled through talks between Israel and the Palestinians. However, Obama also noted that he supported dialogue with Iran, while charging that President Bush's Iran policy has failed.
The presidential candidate warmly spoke about his visit to Israel and conversations with Israelis under rocket attacks.
"When I visited Israel, we met victims of constant rocket fire into civilian neighborhoods; it drove home for me the vulnerability of so many Israeli residents and stiffened my resolve to ensure that Qassam rockets will not be fired, whether from the north or the south. No country which takes its obligation to protect its citizens would tolerate such attacks and certainly the United States would no," he said.
Obama also charged that he was the target of an online mudslinging campaign aimed at portraying him as a Muslim, particularly in the eyes of the Jewish community. He stressed that he was no Muslim, but rather, a Christian.
"I never practiced Islam. I was raised by my secular mother," Obama said. "I have been a member of the Christian religion and an active member of a church. I was sworn in with my hand on my family Bible."
Obama easily won South Carolina's Democratic presidential primary Saturday with the help of heavy black support on, dealing a setback to rival Hillary Clinton after a week of political brawling.
Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black US president, routed Clinton in the latest showdown in a back-and-forth fight for the right to represent the Democratic Party in November's presidential election.
Obama had doubled Clinton's vote total, winning 55 percent to her 27 percent.
Retuers contributed to the story