Obama, Israel, and the Jewish Vote

All Democratic eyes are on Selma right now, but something interesting happened Friday as well…

Seeking to assure supporters of Israel that he is as ardent a backer of the Jewish state as are rivals such as Sens. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, and John Edwards, D-NC, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, delivered a very pro-Israel address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee of Chicago at the end of last week.

“Our job is to rebuild the road to real peace and lasting security throughout the region,” Obama said. “Our job is to do more than lay out another road map. That effort begins with a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel: Our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That will always be my starting point.”

But now comes a very interesting blog entry by the pro-Palestinian blogger Ali Abunimah at The Electronic Intifada, who alleges that Obama has changed to a far more stridently pro-Israel position as his national aspirations developed.

“The last time I spoke to Obama was in the winter of 2004 at a gathering in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood,” Abunimah writes. “He was in the midst of a primary campaign to secure the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat he now occupies. But at that time polls showed him trailing.

“As he came in from the cold and took off his coat, I went up to greet him. He responded warmly, and volunteered, ‘Hey, I’m sorry I haven’t said more about Palestine right now, but we are in a tough primary race. I’m hoping when things calm down I can be more up front.’ He referred to my activism, including columns I was contributing to the The Chicago Tribune critical of Israeli and US policy, ‘Keep up the good work!”

As the campaigns compete for Jewish support, it would be political malpractice for rivals campaigns to not send this blog entry around to big pro-Israel donors.

Jake Tapper is ABC News’ Senior National Correspondent based in the network’s Washington bureau. He writes about politics and popular culture and covers a range of national stories.

Related Links

  • How Barack Obama learned to love Israel, Ali Abunimah (4 March 2007)
  • Political Punch: Obama, Israel, and the Jewish Vote