[Editorial Note: There has been some misrepresentation in the media regarding Senator Obama’s background. Here are some of the facts:
Obama said that a magazine affiliated with his pastor’s Chicago congregation, the Trinity United Church of Christ, had “made an error in judgment” by awarding a prize to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan in November 2007. “I have always denounced the abhorrent antisemitic views of Louis Farrakhan,” Obama said in a conference call with Jewish reportes on January 28, 2008.
During the Presidential Debate in February 2008, Obama repeated his denunciation of Farrakhan’s views, which have included numerous anti-Semitic comments. And, after being pressed, he rejected Farrakhan’s support in the presidential race. (AP, February 29, 2008)
Obama did indeed attend a Muslim school in Indonesia, as was investigated by the Los Angeles Times, but it was by no means a fundamentalist academy. He later transferred to a Catholic school, where he was registered as a Muslim and apparently took some required classes in Islam. Obama is now a practicing Christian and a member of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. The Obama campaign released a statement saying that the senator had never been “a practicing Muslim.” (The Forward, February 1, 2008)
Also in reaction to the rumor that Obama attended a Muslim madrassa school in Jakarta, Indonesia: “SDN Menteng 1 is a public primary school that is open to people of all faiths,” a spokesman said. “Moreover, [Obama] studied earlier at Fransiskus Assisi, which is clearly a Catholic school.” (AP, February 29, 2008)
In response to the rumor that his father is a Muslim: “My father never practiced [Islam, the religion of his father]; he was basically agnostic,” Obama said. “So, other than my name and the fact that I lived in a populous Muslim country for four years when I was a child, I have very little connection to the Islamic religion.” (AP, February 29, 2008)
In response to a pro-Hamas op-ed printed in his church’s bulletin in July 2007, written by Mousa Abu Marzook, a Hamas official, in which he justifies Hamas’ withholding of recognition of Israel’s right to exist: Obama said, “I have already condemned my former pastor’s views on Israel in the strongest possible terms, and I certainly wasn’t in church when that outrageously wrong Los Angeles Times piece was re-printed in the bulletin.” (JTA, March 20, 2008)
In response to attacks on the inflammatory rhetoric of his church’s pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr.:
“The characterization of him that appears with the press is not a picture of what his ministry's about. Prior to this controversy he was widely regarded as one of the preeminent preachers in this country, and certainly of one of the largest and most active churches in Chicago. It doesn’t excuse statements that were made, it’s just simple to indicate it’s not as if there was a statement like this coming up every Sunday when I was at church.”(The Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008).
In a speech on race in Philadelphia, Obama tried to stamp out the controversy swirling over tapes of Wright making statements such as “God damn America“ and accusing Israel of “state terrorism against the Palestinians.” “They expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country,” Obama said, “a view that sees white racism as endemic and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.” He went on to say that these and other comments made by Wright, his long-time spiritual leader, “were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems.” But later he said in his speech - already being termed historic for elsewhere presenting a frank take on the subject of America’s racial divides - that he could “no more disown him than I can disown the black community,” or his white grandmother who occasionally used anti-black slurs. (The Jerusalem Post, March 18, 2008)
In response to rumors circulating about his background indicating that he is a Muslim: “If my policies are wrong, vote against me because my policies are wrong,” Obama said to the hundreds-strong crowd at Boca Raton’s B’nai Torah Congregation. “Don’t vote against me because of who I am. Judge me by what I say and what I’ve done. Don’t judge me because I've got a funny name. Don’t judge me because I’m African-American and people are concerned about memories of the past.”
Speaking at a campaign event in Iowa, Obama said that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a “game-changer for the region.” Obama stressed that Israel, “one of our strongest allies in the world,” would feel hugely threatened given claims by Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that he would wipe it off the world map. (The Jerusalem Post, August 25, 2008)
“My job as president would be to try to make sure that we are tightening the screws diplomatically on Iran, that we’ve mobilized the world community to go after Iran’s program in a serious way and to get sanctions in place so that Iran starts making a difficult calculation. We’ve got to do that before Israel feels like its back is to the wall,” he reiterated when asked if Israel felt that it had free reign to take action against Iran if the West did not convince Teheran to curb its nuclear ambitions. (The Jerusalem Post, August 25, 2008)
“I don’t want to speculate on whether or not Israel feels like it has a green light or not,” he said. “What is not speculation is that we have to act much more forcefully and effectively on the world stage to contain Iran’s nuclear capabilities.” (The Jerusalem Post, August 25, 2008)
Obama said in Iowa that after visiting Israel last month, he believed Israel’s “general attitude is we will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon. They recognize there are no good military options but they also recognize that from their perspective it is unacceptable to allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon,” he added. (The Jerusalem Post, August 25, 2008)
“What I can do is assure that I will do everything in my power as president to prevent Iran attaining nuclear weapons. And I think that begins with engaging in tough, direct talks with Iran, sending a clear message to Iran that they shouldn’t wait for the next administration but should start engaging in the P5 process [involving the five permanent members of the UN Security Council] that’s taking place right now, and elevating this to the top of our national security priorities, so that we are mobilizing the entire international community, including Russia and China, on this issue. One of the failures, I think, of our approach in the past has been to use a lot of strong rhetoric but not follow through with the kinds of both carrots and sticks that might change the calculus of the Iranian regime. But I have also said that I would not take any options off the table, including military.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
“I think it is important in mobilizing the international community to make clear that this is not just a game that we’re playing, but this is of the utmost seriousness - to send messages to Russia and China that in our bilateral relationships this is a top priority, not just a secondary priority. And one of my strong beliefs is that, to the extent that we are showing a willingness to negotiate but are very clear and direct in our goals, and are displaying a sense of urgency - that if the Iranians fail to respond, we’ve stripped away whatever excuses they may have, [and] whatever rationales may exist in the international community for not ratcheting up sanctions and taking serious action.” He added, “Time is of the essence in this situation.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
“I’ve said in the past and I will repeat that Israelis, and Israelis alone have to make decisions about their own security. But the grave consequences of either doing nothing or initiating a potential war with Iran are such that we want to do everything we can, to exhaust every avenue to avoid that option.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
Obama, citing past US diplomacy with the Soviet Union and China, has said that as president he would personally negotiate with Iran and offer economic incentives and a chance for peaceful relations if Iranian leaders would forgo their pursuit of nuclear weapons and their support of terrorists. At the same time, he has said he would strongly reject Iran’s development of nuclear weapons, its anti-Semitic rhetoric and terrorist support. (The Jerusalem Post, May 15, 2008)
Barack Obama defended his proposal to pursue “aggressive diplomacy” with Iran in a meeting with Philadelphia Jewish leaders. (JTA, April 17, 2008)
Obama said that “it is very important that Iran understands that an attack on Israel is an attack on our strongest ally in the region, one whose security we consider paramount.” He said that would be an act of aggression that he would consider “unacceptable,” and that “the United States would take appropriate action.” The Illinois senator stressed that he would “take no option off the table” when it comes to preventing Iran from attaining a nuclear weapons program. (The Jerusalem Post, April 17, 2008)
Obama said one of his “top priorities” as president would be “to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranians” and that, “I will do whatever is required to prevent the Iranians from obtaining nuclear weapons.” (The Jerusalem Post, April 17, 2008)
“Nobody has to persuade me that Ahmadinejad is in many ways reprehensible in his views. A simple dimplomatic gesture of direct talks can actually strenghten the hands of the moderates. A belligerent tone for Iran empowers the hardliners in Iran. It becomes more difficult for those who want to be part of the international community to persuade their fellow Iranians that the United States is not determine to invade or engage in regime change.” (The Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008).
Obama, according to his campaign, spoke of a shared US-Israeli interest in ensuring that Iran doesn’t develop nuclear weapons and ends its support of terrorism, in a conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. (The Jerusalem Post, March 11, 2008)
Obama reaffirmed his understanding of the threats Iran poses. “Iran’s possession of nuclear weapons would not only be a threat to U.S. interests and destabilizing to the region but would also be an extraordinary threat to Israel,” Obama said, noting Iranian President Ahmadinejad’s Holocaust denial and his expressed wish that Israel did not exist. Obama said, though, that incentives and deterrence are both needed to deal with the regime in Iran. “I also think we should be presenting carrots. The key is to give Iranians incentives to behave differently,”Obama said, adding the unwillingness to talk, “empowered extremists like Ahmadinejad.” (Conference call to members of the Jewish and Israeli Press, January 28, 2008, reported by the Forward.)
Obama said he would favor holding direct talks with Iran and Syria in a bid to stabilize the Middle East if elected president. “I want to have direct talks with countries like Iran and Syria because I don’t believe we can stabilize the region unless not just our friends but also our enemies are involved in these discussions.” (Interview with France’s Paris Match on January 31, 2008, reported by The Jerusalem Post on February 1, 2008)
Regarding Iran, he called for more pressure on the regime, as a divestment bill he sponsored advocates, but didn’t mention the possibility of using force. He also said that “carrots” needed to be offered, while a spokesman said that he believed there should be low- and mid-level diplomatic contacts between the United States and Iran. (Conference call to members of the Jewish and Israeli Press, January 28, 2008, reported by The Jerusalem Post)
“Diplomacy is not just talking with your friends, but talking to our enemies. We want to send a signal to the Iranian people that we are reasonable. We are not looking to impede Iran’s legitimate national aspirations, but they have to change their behavior.” (Conference call to members of the Jewish and Israeli Press, January 28, 2008, reported by The Jerusalem Post)
“While we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.” (JTA, January 7, 2008)
“By reporting that Iran halted its nuclear weapon development program four years ago because of international pressure, the new National Intelligence Estimate makes a compelling case for less saber-rattling and more direct diplomacy. The juxtaposition of this NIE with the president’s suggestion of World War III serves as an important reminder of what we learned with the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq: members of Congress must carefully read the intelligence before giving the President any justification to use military force.” (The Atlantic, December 4, 2007)
[The Senate resolution urging the President to label the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization] “is yet another rationale for what we’re doing in Iraq, and I think that’s a mistake.” (The Washington Post, October 31, 2007)
“If I sit down with a leader of Iran, I will send them a strong message that Israel is our friend and that we will assist in their security and that we don’t find nuclear weapons acceptable," Obama said in a conference call Thursday.” (JTA, July 25, 2007)
“Allowing Iran, a radical theocracy which supports terrorism and openly threatens its neighbors to acquire nuclear weapons is a risk we cannot take. To prevent this dangerous outcome, we need a comprehensive diplomatic strategy, including stronger action by the United Nations, to bring pressure to bear on Iran to reverse course. All nations need to understand that, while Iran's most explicite and intolerable threats are aimed at Israel, its conduct threatens all of us.
“In addition to a more agressive diplomatic effort, we need to take additional steps to ratchet up the economic pressure on Iran. I am encouraged that many states are moving to divest their pension funds of companies that support Iran’s oil and gas industry, and I have introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act to make it easier for them to do so. States like Florida, Illinois, California, and others, have shown leadership in this area, and we should support thier efforts. I will be working to get the bill passed this year, and look forward to working with those who signed this petition to do so.” (Statement to The Israel Project, July 19, 2007)
“I have argued for many months that the time has come to begin a phased redeployment of US forces from Iraq. In a civil war where no military solution exists, this redeployment remains our best leverage to pressure the Iraqi government to achieve the political settlement between its warring factions that can slow the bloodshed and promote stability. And my plan includes a robust regional diplomatic strategy to help Iraqis forge political compromises.
The redeployment of US troops will enable a more effective use of our resources against other pressing threats that we face. Within Iraq, we should keep a limited number of US troops to continue counter-terrorism strikes, train Iraqi Security Forces, and protect US military and civilians. Within the region, we should maintain a robust force to contain Iraq’s sectarian strife, curb a humanitarian catastrophe, and reassure our allies that we will stay engaged in the Middle East.
The US military has performed valiantly and brilliantly in Iraq. But a the Administration’s failed strategy in Iraq has strengthened Iran’s strategic position, reduced US credibility and influence in the region, and placed our ally Israel and other nations friendly to the United States in greater peril.
Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s regime is a threat to all of us. His words contain a chilling echo of some of the world's most tragic history. Neither Israel nor the United States has the luxury of dismissing his calls for Israel’s destruction as mere rhetoric.
The United States must lead the world in working to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy that is a state-sponsor of terrorism.
And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.
This includes direct engagement with Iran similar to the meetings we conducted with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, laying out in clear terms our principles and interests. Tough-minded diplomacy would include imposing stronger sanctions, both through and outside the United Nations.
It would mean harnessing the collective power of Iran’s major European trading partners and Gulf state energy suppliers to increase pressure on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. It would mean full implementation of US sanctions laws and promoting divestment strategies to choke off the crucial flow of oil and gas revenue that funds Iran's ambitions.
I’ve introduced legislation to make it easier for states and cities to divest their pension holdings from companies that build up Iran’s energy sector. In sum, we need international sanctions strong enough to have a profound impact on Iran’s economy, forcing Iran’s leaders to recalculate whether nuclear weapons are indeed in their interests.
As we confront the threat posed by Iran, we need broad international support, enhanced US credibility, and maximum flexibility. A responsible redeployment from Iraq would provide all of these, and significantly strengthen our leverage.” (The Jerusalem Post, June 21, 2007)
“When I traveled to Israel last year, I met with Israelis across the political spectrum and heard the diversity of views for which Israel is famous. But on one issue, there was consensus: a deep concern about the threat posed by an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.
Israelis are right to be concerned. A nuclear weapon in the hands of this radical theocracy could have dire consequences: a nuclear arms race drawing in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey; pressure on other nations to accommodate Iranian demands; emboldened terrorist groups acting under an Iranian nuclear umbrella; and, perhaps, the proliferation of nuclear technology to other states and terrorist groups.
For Israelis, the threat is even more pronounced in light of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust and chilling call for Israel to be “wiped from the map.” Israel does not have the luxury of treating these threats as mere rhetoric. Neither should the United States.
Unfortunately, recent findings by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) suggest that Iran has made considerable progress - more than had been realized - toward mastering the technology required to build nuclear weapons. So the need to address this threat is urgent.
In facing such a threat, no President of the United States should take any option, including the military option, off the table. But at this stage, our first line of offense must be a sustained, aggressive, coordinated diplomatic effort to make clear to Iran the costs of its current path.
The current strategy of ignoring Iran and issuing threats through intermediaries has not worked. I would engage Iran in direct, bilateral discussions - much as we negotiated with the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. In these discussions, we should make clear to Iran that its continued pursuit of nuclear weapons will lead to greater isolation, and increased economic pressure. At the same time, we must communicate directly with the Iranian people, who are not as radical as their government, letting them know the opportunities for cooperation that exist if their government ends its current destructive policies.
Our diplomatic offensive must include stronger multilateral actions as well. The UN Security Council has sanctioned Iran twice in the past year, but it is time to ratchet up the pressure. We must push Iran’s trading partners in Europe and energy suppliers in the Gulf states to use additional economic leverage against Iran, and we must demand that the Russians and Chinese focus on the serious threat to their interests posed by a nuclear Iran. We need to build this pressure over the coming weeks and months, not months and years.
And we can do more on our own. I am pushing Congress to pass my bill that makes it easier for state and local governments to divest their pension funds of companies that invest in Iran’s energy sector, providing the revenue Iran uses to pursue nuclear weapons and sponsor terrorism. Divestment is a useful tool to bring additional economic pressure to bear on Iran.
Finally, showing Iran we are serious means maintaining close diplomatic and military relationships with our allies in the region. In Israel's case, that means providing our full military assistance package and continuing our cooperation with Israel in the development of the missile defense technology that Israel needs to defend itself.” (The Jerusalem Post, June 7, 2007)
“I think that military options have to be on the table when you’re dealing with rogue states that have shown constant hostility towards the United States. The point that I would make, though, is that we have not explored all of our options...We have not explored any kind of dialogue with either Iran or North Korea, and I think that has been a mistake. As a consequence, we have almost no leverage over them.” (Meet the Press with Tim Russert, October 22, 2006)
“In light of the fact that we’re now in Iraq, with all the problems in terms of perceptions about America that have been created, us launching some missile strikes into Iran is not the optimal position for us to be in. On the other hand, having a radical Muslim theocracy in possession of nuclear weapons is worse. So I guess my instinct would be to err on not having those weapons in the possession of the ruling clerics of Iran. ... And I hope it doesn't get to that point. But realistically, as I watch how this thing has evolved, I'd be surprised if Iran blinked at this point.” (October 20, 2006)
Iran’s President Ahmadinejad’s regime is a threat to all of us. His words contain a chilling echo of some of the world’s most tragic history.
Unfortunately, history has a terrible way of repeating itself. President Ahmadinejad has denied the Holocaust. He held a conference in his country, claiming it was a myth. But we know the Holocaust was as real as the 6 million who died in mass graves at Buchenwald, or the cattle cars to Dachau or whose ashes clouded the sky at Auschwitz. We have seen the pictures. We have walked the halls of the Holocaust museum in Washington and Yad Vashem. We have touched the tattoos on loved-ones arms. After 60 years, it is time to deny the deniers.
In the 21st century, it is unacceptable that a member state of the United Nations would openly call for the elimination of another member state. But that is exactly what he has done. Neither Israel nor the United States has the luxury of dismissing these outrages as mere rhetoric, particularly when that nation has expressed an interest in developing nuclear weapons.
The world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons.
Iranian nuclear weapons would destabilize the region and could set off a new arms race. Some nations in the region, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, could fall away from restraint and rush into a nuclear contest that could fuel greater instability in the region.
And that’s not just bad for the Middle East, but bad for the world, making it a vastly more dangerous and unpredictable place.
Other nations would feel great pressure to accommodate Iranian demands. Terrorist groups with Iran’s backing would feel emboldened to act even more brazenly under an Iranian nuclear umbrella. And as the A.Q. Kahn network in Pakistan demonstrated, Iran could spread this technology around the world.
... to prevent this worst-case scenario, we need the United States to lead tough-minded diplomacy. This includes direct engagement with Iran similar to the meetings we conducted with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, laying out in clear terms our principles and interests.
Tough-minded diplomacy would include real leverage through stronger sanctions. It would mean more determined U.S diplomacy at the United Nations. It would mean harnessing the collective power of our friends in Europe who are Iran’s major trading partners. It would mean a cooperative strategy with Gulf States who supply Iran with much of the energy resources it needs.
It would mean unifying those states to recognize the threat of Iran and increase pressure on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. It would mean full implementation of U.S. sanctions laws. And over the long term, it would mean a focused approach from us to finally end the tyranny of oil, and develop our own alternative sources of energy to drive the price of oil down and disable those who would use the oil weapon to do us harm..
We must also persuade other nations such as Saudi Arabia to recognize common interests with Israel in dealing with Iran. We should stress to the Egyptians that they help the Iranians and do themselves no favors by failing to adequately prevent the smuggling of weapons and cash by Iran into Gaza. The United States’ leverage is strengthened when we have many nations with us. It puts us in a place where sanctions could actually have a profound impact on Iran’s economy. Iran is highly dependent on imports and foreign investment, credit and technology. And an environment where our allies see that these types of investments in Iran are not in the world’s best interests, could help bring Iran to the table.
We have no quarrel with the Iranian people. They know that President Ahamadinejad is reckless, irresponsible, and inattentive to their day-to-day needs which is why they sent him a rebuke at the ballot box this fall. And we hope more of them will speak out. There is great hope in their ability to see his hatred for what it is: hatred and a threat to peace in the region.
We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs.
This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza. And when Israel is attacked, we must stand up for Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.
Last summer, Hezbollah attacked Israel. By using Lebanon as an outpost for terrorism, and innocent people as shields, Hezbollah has also engulfed that entire nation in violence and conflict, and threatened the fledgling movement for democracy there.
That’s why we have to press for enforcement of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701, which demands the cessation of arms shipments to Hezbollah, a resolution which Syria and Iran continue to disregard. Their support and shipment of weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas, which threatens the peace and security in the region, must end.
These are great challenges that we face. And in moments like these, true allies do not walk away. For six years, the administration has missed opportunities to increase the United States’ influence in the region and help Israel achieve the peace she wants and the security she needs. The time has come for us to seize those opportunities.
“There are a number of different aspects. Our first approach has to be to capture or kill those who are so steeped in that ideology that we’re not going to convert them. Bin-Laden is not going to change his mind suddenly. So we have to be very aggressive in simply rolling up those terrorist networks that have been set up and that adhere to those views. I would argue that the number of Muslims who both embrace and act on that ideology is relatively low. There’s then a larger circle, there’s a broader part of the Muslim world that is fundamentalist, but is not wedded to violence. The key in dealing with that aspect of Islam is to help them reconcile modernity to their faith. A lot of times their gripe is not with the West per se, but with the forces of modern life and globalization that is disruptive to their views of what their faith means. And I think that lifting up models of countries that have found accommodation between Islam and a modern economy, globalization, diversity of cultures...” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
“A country like Jordan has gone a long way in moving in that direction. A country like Indonesia, which I lived in as a child for four years, has a strong tradition of tolerance of diversity. And although there was a certain period of time when a fundamentalist strain of terrorism infected the culture, that’'s not its core. A final aspect of this is recognizing that the population explosion of uneducated young men and women who are impoverished is always dangerous in any society. And that helps fuel and feed Islamic radicalism, even if there is not a direct correlation. I recognize that many of the perpetrators of terrorist acts aren'’t poor; often times [they] come from middle class or even upper class families. [But] there’s no doubt that the tolerance or the acceptance of extremism among the broader population is often fuelled by frustration and a sense of no prospects for the future. To the extent that we can work with countries like Egypt, or countries like Jordan, to assure that the youth that are coming up have avenues that allow them to prosper... We’re not going to end this, to eliminate terrorism entirely. There’s always going to have to be a part of our strategy that involves force. But I think that we can shrink the appeal of that ideology in a way that makes an enormous difference.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
Hamas and the situation in Gaza:
“My position on Hamas is indistinguishable from the position of
Hillary Clinton or John McCain. I said they are a terrorist organization
and I’ve repeatedly condemned them. I’ve repeatedly said, and I mean
what I say: since they are a terrorist organization, we should not be
dealing with them until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism, and
abide by previous agreements.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
In response to a statement made recent by leader of Hamas Ahmed Yousef, in which Yousef said, “We like Mr. Obama and we hope that he will win the
election,” Obama responded: “I wasn’t flummoxed. I think what is going on there is the same
reason why there are some suspicions of me in the Jewish community.
Look, we don’t do nuance well in politics and especially don’t do it
well on Middle East policy. We look at things as black and white, and
not gray. It’s conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who
say to themselves, “This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim
world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has
called for talks with people, and so he’s not going to be engaging in
the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush,” and that’s
something they’re hopeful about. I think that’s a perfectly
legitimate perception as long as they’re not confused about my
unyielding support for Israel’s security.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
“Hamas is a terrorist organization, responsible for the deaths of many innocents, and dedicated to Israel’s destruction, as evidenced by their bombardment of Sderot in recent months. I support requiring Hamas to meet the international community’s conditions of recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, and abiding my past agreements before they are treated as a legitimate actor.” (JTA, March 20, 2008)
Obama defended Israel’s right to self-defense and expressed “admiration and support” for its commitment to negotiations with the Palestinians. (The Jerusalem Post, March 11, 2008)
“I urge you to ensure that the Security Council issue no statement and pass no resolution on this matter that does not fully condemn the rocket assault Hamas has been conducting on civilians in southern Israel...All of us are concerned about the impact of closed border crossings on Palestinian families. However, we have to understand why Israel is forced to do this... Israel has the right to respond while seeking to minimize any impact on civilians. The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks... If it cannot bring itself to make these common sense points, I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all.” (Letter to US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad, January 22, 2008)
Peace with the Palestinians:
“Look, I think that both sides on this equation are going to have to make some calculations. Israel may seek ‘67-plus’ and justify it in terms of the buffer that they need for security purposes. They’ve got to consider whether getting that buffer is worth the antagonism of the other party.The Palestinians are going to have to make a calculation: Are we going to fight for every inch of that ’67 border or, given the fact that 40 years have now passed, and new realities have taken place on the ground, do we take a deal that may not perfectly align with the ’67 boundaries? My sense is that both sides recognize that there’s going to have to be some give. The question from my perspective is can the parties move beyond a rigid, formulaic or ideological approach and take a practical approach that looks at the larger picture and says, ‘What’s going to be the best way for us to achieve security and peace?’” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
“I think that Israel should abide by previous agreements and commitments that have been made, and aggressive settlement construction would seem to violate the spirit at least, if not the letter, of agreements that have been made previously. Israel’s security concerns, I think, have to be taken into account, via negotiation. I think the parties in previous discussions have stated that settlement construction doesn’t necessarily contribute to that enhanced security. I think there are those who would argue that the more settlements there are, the more Israel has to invest in protecting those settlements and the more tensions arise that may undermine Israel’s long-term security.Ultimately, though, these are part of the discussions that have to take place between the parties. But I think that, based on what’s previously been said, for Israel to make sure that it is aligned with those previous statements is going to be helpful to the process.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
“I believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. But I think that how Israel and the Palestinians resolve this issue is a final-status issue. It needs to be left up to the two parties.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
“I think there is no doubt that there is a connection between Iran’s strengthening over the last couple of years, partly because some strategic errors have been made on the part of the West. And [the same goes for] the increasing boldness of Hizbullah and Hamas. But I don’t think that’s the only factor and criterion in the lack of progress. Hamas’s victory in the [Palestinian Authority] election can partly be traced to a sense of frustration among the Palestinian people over how Fatah, over a relatively lengthy period of time, had failed to deliver basic services. I get a strong impression that [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas and [Prime Minister Salaam] Fayad are doing everything they can to address some of those systemic failures by the Palestinian Authority. The failures of Hamas in Gaza to deliver an improved quality of life for their people give pause to the Palestinians to think that pursuing that approach automatically assures greater benefits. You know, look, I arrive at this with no illusions as to the difficulty in terms of what is required. But I think it’s important for us to keep working at it, frankly, because Israel’s security and peace in the region depend on it.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama said on Sunday he used “poor phrasing” in a speech supporting Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel. “You know, the truth is that this was an example where we had some poor phrasing in the speech. And we immediately tried to correct the interpretation that was given,” he said in an interview aired on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria - GPS.” “The point we were simply making was, is that we don’t want barbed wire running through Jerusalem, similar to the way it was prior to the ’67 war, that it is possible for us to create a Jerusalem that is cohesive and coherent,” Obama said. (Ynetnews.com, July 14, 2008)
When asked if Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas, Obama responded: “No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this
constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a
resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant
jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a
national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that
Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that
the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and
some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more
hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem
from the fact that I’m not going to blindly adhere to whatever the
most hawkish position is just because that’s the safest ground
I want to solve the problem, and so my job in being a friend to Israel
is partly to hold up a mirror and tell the truth and say if Israel is
building settlements without any regard to the effects that this has on
the peace process, then we’re going to be stuck in the same status quo
that we’ve been stuck in for decades now, and that won’t lift that
existential dread that David Grossman described in your article. The notion that a vibrant, successful society with incredible economic
growth and incredible cultural vitality is still plagued by this notion
that this could all end at any moment -- you know, I don’t know what
that feels like, but I can use my imagination to understand it. I would
not want to raise my children in those circumstances. I want to make
sure that the people of Israel, when they kiss their kids and put them
on that bus, feel at least no more existential dread than any parent
does whenever their kids leave their sight. So that then becomes the
question: is settlement policy conducive to relieving that over the long
term, or is it just making the situation worse? That’s the question
that has to be asked.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
“What I will say is what I’ve said previously. Settlements at this
juncture are not helpful. Look, my interest is in solving this problem
not only for Israel but for the United States.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
Obama’s reaction to Carte’s suggestion that Israel resembles an apartheid state: “I strongly reject the characterization. Israel is a vibrant
democracy, the only one in the Middle East, and there’s no doubt that
Israel and the Palestinians have tough issues to work out to get to the
goal of two states living side by side in peace and security, but
injecting a term like apartheid into the discussion doesn’t advance
that goal. It’s emotionally loaded, historically inaccurate, and
it’s not what I believe.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
“When I visited Ramallah, among a group of Palestinian students, one of
the things that I said to those students was: “Look, I am sympathetic
to you and the need for you guys to have a country that can function,
but understand this: if you’re waiting for America to distance itself
from Israel, you are delusional. Because my commitment, our commitment,
to Israel’s security is non-negotiable.” I’ve said this in front
of audiences where, if there were any doubts about my position, that’d
be a place where you’d hear it.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
For a settlement to be reached, Obama said, Palestinians will need to make great strides in recognizing Israel's security needs; they will also need to abandon the goal of an unfettered right of return for Palestinians that would undermine Israel's existence as a Jewish state. Israel, on the other hand, will have to “acknowledge that its going to have to make some territorial modifications to ensure that there is a stable and contiguous Palestinian state that can function, and ultimately that Palestinian children have opportunities to thrive like children anywhere else.”(The Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008)
The US role “requires listening to both side and talking to both sides, that requires that we don't dismiss out of hand the concerns of the Palestinians, because there is no way we can move forward in those negotiations without at least understanding their perspective.” (The Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008)
“It is important if we're going to make progress in Israeli-Palestinian talks that both sides are held accountable to previous agreements. I think that the failure to abide by previous agreements has occurred more consistently on the Palestinian side particularly as it pertains to reining in violence.”
He reiterated his long-standing positions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which include the need for Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a precondition for talks, and his rejection of a literal Palestinian right of return. Regarding the peace process, Obama said the Palestinians had the responsibility to crack down on violence before Israel made substantial concessions. Palestinian leaders must “get a hold of their security apparatus, to be able to crack down on the terrorist activity, to root out the corruption. Until the Israels have some confidence that whatever is negotiated will actually be followed through on. I think it’s going to be difficult,” Obama said. (Conference call to members of the Jewish and Israeli Press, January 28, 2008, reported by the Forward.)
Palestinian refugees belong in their own state and do not have a “literal” right of return to Israel. “The outlines of any agreement would involve ensuring that Israel remains a Jewish state.” He reiterated his support for a two-state solution, but said, “We cannot move forward until there is some confidence that the Palestinians are able to provide the security apparatus that would prevent constant attacks against Israel from taking place.” (Conference call to members of the Jewish and Israeli Press, January 28, 2008, reported by The Jerusalem Post)
“The right of return [to Israel] is something that is not an option in a literal sense,”Obama said - though he noted, “The Palestinians have a legitimate concern that a state have a contiguous coherent mass that would allow the state to function effectively.” (Conference call to members of the Jewish and Israeli Press, January 28, 2008, reported by The Jerusalem Post)
“It is in the interests of Israel to establish peace in the Middle East,” he said. “It cannot be done at the price of compromising Israel’s security, and the United States government and an Obama presidency cannot ask Israel to take risks with respect to its security. But it can ask Israel to say that it is still possible for us to allow more than just this status quo of fear, terror, division. That can’t be our long-term aspiration.” (JTA, January 7, 2008)
“What I said was, nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region.” (JTA, January 7, 2008)
“I think everyone knows what the basic outlines of an agreement would look like. It would mean that the Palestinians would have to reinterpret the notion of right of return in a way that would preserve Israel as a Jewish state. It might involve compensation and other concessions from the Israelis, but ultimately Israel is not going to give up its state.” (JTA, January 7, 2008)
“A Hamas mini-state in Gaza is extremely dangerous for Israel, for Egypt, for US interests, and destabilizing to the region as a whole. It threatens to become a major safe haven and launching pad for terrorism, and an Iranian foothold on Israel’s and Egypt’s doorstep, not to mention making life miserable for the residents of Gaza.
The United States should work to support and strengthen Palestinian moderates who seek peace, while increasing the isolation of Hamas and other extremists who offer no peaceful way forward and who bring only more suffering to Israelis and Palestinians.
Last month's summit in Sharm e-Sheikh was encouraging. I applaud the efforts of Prime Minister Olmert, President Mubarak, and King Abdullah to strengthen President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad - two Palestinian leaders who have demonstrated their commitment to non-violence and achieving peace with Israel. These leaders seek peace and deserve the support of the international community.
I commend these regional leaders for their initiative. But it is critical that the United States demonstrate leadership if this effort is to succeed. A senior US presence at this summit could have been helpful.
The absence of US leadership in the past has helped open the door to extremism in the West Bank and Gaza. Direct US presidential leadership is needed now to ensure the Europeans maintain their isolation of Hamas; to press Egypt to do everything possible to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza; and, to get other Arab states to provide political support to President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad and humanitarian aid to Gazans that does not flow through Hamas institutions.
We need to help these moderate leaders demonstrate that they can deliver for their people. Israel and the Palestinian Authority can work together to improve the security of their people, and we can help by ensuring a resumption of aid, improved security cooperation, a renewed negotiating process, and help reforming Fatah and the Palestinian Authority.
This moment is an opportunity to let Palestinians know that the United States will work toward the goal of achieving a viable, democratic Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza living side by side with Israel and peace and security, but that this goal can only be achieved through acceptance of Israel and a commitment to non-violence.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 5, 2007)
The Israeli people, and Prime Minister Olmert, have made clear that they are more than willing to negotiate an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that will result in two states living side by side in peace and security. But the Israelis must trust that they have a true Palestinian partner for peace. That is why we must strengthen the hands of Palestinian moderates who seek peace and that is why we must maintain the isolation of Hamas and other extremists who are committed to Israel’s destruction.
The U.S. and our partners have put before Hamas three very simple conditions to end this isolation: recognize Israel’s right to exist; renounce the use of violence; and abide by past agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
We should all be concerned about the agreement negotiated among Palestinians in Mecca last month. The reports of this agreement suggest that Hamas, Fatah, and independent ministers would sit in a government together, under a Hamas Prime Minister, without any recognition of Israel, without a renunciation of violence, and with only an ambiguous promise to“respect” previous agreements.
This should concern us all because it suggests that Mahmoud Abbas, who is a Palestinian leader I believe is committed to peace, felt forced to compromise with Hamas. However, if we are serious about the Quartet’s conditions, we must tell the Palestinians this is not good enough.
But as I said at the outset, Israel will have some heavy stones to carry as well. Its history has been full of tough choices in search of peace and security. Yitzhak Rabin had the vision to reach out to longtime enemies. Ariel Sharon had the determination to lead Israel out of Gaza. These were difficult, painful decisions that went to the heart of Israel's identity as a nation.
Many Israelis I talked to during my visit last year told me that they were prepared to make sacrifices to give their children a chance to know peace. These were people of courage who wanted a better life. And I know these are difficult times and it can be easy to lose hope. But we owe it to our sons and daughters, our mothers and fathers, and to all those who have fallen, to keep searching for peace and security -- even though it can seem distant. This search is in the best interests of Israel. It is in the best interests of the United States. It is in the best interests of all of us.
We can and we should help Israelis and Palestinians both fulfill their national goals: two states living side by side in peace and security.
Both the Israeli and Palestinian people have suffered from the failure to achieve this goal. The United States should leave no stone unturned in working to make that goal a reality.
But in the end, we also know that we should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israeli Prime Minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States.
We must be partners – we must be active partners. Diplomacy in theMiddle East cannot be done on the cheap. Diplomacy is measured by patience and effort. We cannot continue to have trips consisting of little more than photo-ops with little movement in between. Neither Israel nor the U.S. is served by this approach.
“My general view is that initiating direct contacts between the United States and other countries is a generally smart practice - if nothing else just to get better intelligence on what they are thinking, on what their approaches are, what their calculations are, what their interests are. I think that based on conversations I’ve had here in Israel as well as conversations with leaders elsewhere in the region, there is the possibility at least that the Syrian government genuinely seeks to break out of the isolation. What price they are willing to pay to break out of that isolation, is an unanswered question. It’s worth exploring. And if in fact there are some genuine signals that Syria is willing to drive out terrorists in their midst, shut down the arms flow into Lebanon, or to otherwise engage in more responsible behavior, I think it could be a shift in the region that would be extremely advantageous. And the United States should partner with Israel as well as moderate forces in the Palestinian community to pursue that.” (The Jerusalem Post, July 24, 2008)
“I am encouraged that Israel and Syria have renewed peace talks and fully support Israel’s efforts to advance peace with all its neighbors,” he said in statement e-mailed to The Jerusalem Post. “I have consistently said that the United States must stand ready to help Israel achieve peace with its neighbors and should not block Israel from the negotiating table, nor force it to negotiate.” He added, “We should have no illusions that success will come easily, as difficult issues like Syria’s support of terrorist organizations that threaten Israel must be confronted.” (In response to Israel-Syria peace talks, The Jerusalem Post, May 22, 2008)
“I would engage Syria in direct bilateral talks. We should insist on our core demands: cooperation in stabilizing Iraq; ending support for terrorist groups that threaten Israel; and respect for Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence. We should make plain there are two paths ahead: greater engagement, improved political ties and economic cooperation or greater isolation through imposition of the full range of sanctions in the Syria Accountability Act which will make it difficult for companies and financial institutions that do business in Syria to continue to do business in the US. In this process, we should work closely with our European partners; incentives and disincentives will be far more effective if the EU is on board.
“As for peace negotiations with Israel, this is a decision Israel must make based on its own interests and assessment of Syria’s intentions. The US should not pressure Israel to move, nor should it stand in the way. And should negotiations begin, the US should do what it has always done in close partnership with Israel: lend them its full diplomatic and political support.” (August 8, 2007)
“I will meet with them -- the leaders of hostile nations like Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea, and the reason is this, the notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them -- which has been the guiding principle of this administration -- is ridiculous.” (JTA, July 25, 2007)
“I don’t think there is any nation that would not have reacted the way Israel did after two soldiers had been snatched. I support Israel's response to take some action in protecting themselves.” (August 22, 2006)
“I don’t fault Israel for wanting to rid their border with Lebanon from those Katyusha missiles that can fire in and harm Israeli citizens, so I think that any cease fire would have to be premised on the removal of those missiles.” (July 2006)
The United States-Israel Relationship:
“I’m here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and
the United States and my abiding commitment to Israel’s security and my hope that I can serve as an effective partner, whether as a US senator or as president,” Obama said. (The Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2008)
Obama said, “I’ll never compromise Israel’s security. Terrorism is not theoretical, it’s right here a block away from this hotel, and it must be fought with full force and strength.” He condemned the bulldozer terror attack in Jerusalem just a few hours before he arrived at the
King David Hotel, just up the street from where the attack took place. (The Jerusalem Post, July 23, 2008)
Obama did seek to use his background to appeal to the Jewish community, suggesting that he could repair some of the breach between blacks and Jews in America, two groups “who have been uprooted and been on the outside.” Martin Luther King Jr. would not have been able to accomplish so much in the battle for civil rights without help from Jewish supporters, he said. “I want to make sure that I am one of the vehicles by which we can rebuild those bonds.” He added, “I have to be very cautious about this, because you remember the old stereotype, ‘I’m not prejudiced, some of my best friends are Jewish,’ right? ‘I’m not prejudiced, some of my best friends are black.’” Later, he said, “We’ve got to be careful about guilt by association. The tradition of the Jewish people is to judge me by what I say and what I’ve done.” (The Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2008)
In response to President Bush’s speech to the Knesset on May 15, 2008, the Obama campaign released a statement: “It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 6Oth anniversary of Israel’s independence to launch a false political attack,” Obama said in the statement. “George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president’s extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel.” (The Jerusalem Post, May 15, 2008)
“When Israel invaded Lebanon two summers ago, I was in South Africa, a
place where, obviously, when you get outside the United States, you can
hear much more critical commentary about Israel’s actions, and I was
asked about this in a press conference, and that time, and for the
entire summer, I was very adamant about Israel’s right to defend
itself. I said that there’s not a nation-state on Earth that would
tolerate having two of its soldiers kidnapped and just let it go. So I
welcome the Muslim world’s accurate perception that I am interested in
opening up dialogue and interested in moving away from the unilateral
policies of George Bush, but nobody should mistake that for a softer
stance when it comes to terrorism or when it comes to protecting
Israel’s security or making sure that the alliance is strong and
firm. You will not see, under my presidency, any slackening in
commitment to Israel’s security.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
“I think that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally
just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the
active existence of anti-Semitism, the potential vulnerability that the
Jewish people could still experience. I know that that there are those
who would argue that in some ways America has become a safe refuge for
the Jewish people, but if you’ve gone through the Holocaust, then that
does not offer the same sense of confidence and security as the idea
that the Jewish people can take care of themselves no matter what
happens. That makes it a fundamentally just idea. That does not mean that I would agree with every action of the state of
Israel, because it’s a government and it has politicians, and as a
politician myself I am deeply mindful that we are imperfect creatures
and don’t always act with justice uppermost on our minds. But the
fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state
that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported
here in the United States and around the world.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
“I always joke that my intellectual formation was through Jewish scholars and writers, even though I didn’t know it at the time.
Whether it was theologians or Philip Roth who helped shape my
sensibility, or some of the more popular writers like Leon Uris. So when
I became more politically conscious, my starting point when I think
about the Middle East is this enormous emotional attachment and sympathy
for Israel, mindful of its history, mindful of the hardship and pain and
suffering that the Jewish people have undergone, but also mindful of the
incredible opportunity that is presented when people finally return to a
land and are able to try to excavate their best traditions and their
best selves. And obviously it’s something that has great resonance
with the African-American experience.
One of the things that is frustrating about the recent conversations on
Israel is the loss of what I think is the natural affinity between the
African-American community and the Jewish community, one that was deeply
understood by Jewish and black leaders in the early civil-rights
movement but has been estranged for a whole host of reasons that you and
I don’t need to elaborate.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
“I think the idea of Israel and the
reality of Israel is one that I find important to me personally. Because
it speaks to my history of being uprooted, it speaks to the
African-American story of exodus, it describes the history of overcoming
great odds and a courage and a commitment to carving out a democracy and
prosperity in the midst of hardscrabble land. One of the things I loved
about Israel when I went there is that the land itself is a metaphor for
rebirth, for what’s been accomplished. What I also love about Israel
is the fact that people argue about these issues, and that they’re
asking themselves moral questions. Sometimes I’m attacked in the press for maybe being too deliberative.
My staff teases me sometimes about anguishing over moral questions. I
think I learned that partly from Jewish thought, that your actions have
consequences and that they matter and that we have moral imperatives.
The point is, if you look at my writings and my history, my commitment
to Israel and the Jewish people is more than skin-deep and it’s more
than political expediency. When it comes to the gut issue, I have such
ardent defenders among my Jewish friends in Chicago. I don’t think
people have noticed how fiercely they defend me, and how central they
are to my success, because they’ve interacted with me long enough to
know that I've got it in my gut. During the Wright episode, they
didn’t flinch for a minute, because they know me and trust me, and
they’ve seen me operate in difficult political situations. The other irony in this whole process is that in my early political
life in Chicago, one of the raps against me in the black community is
that I was too close to the Jews. When I ran against Bobby Rush [for
Congress], the perception was that I was Hyde Park, I’m University of
Chicago, I’ve got all these Jewish friends. When I started organizing,
the two fellow organizers in Chicago were Jews, and I was attacked for
associating with them. So I’ve been in the foxhole with my Jewish
friends, so when I find on the national level my commitment being
questioned, it’s curious.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
“America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakable,” Obama said in a brief speech at a Yom Ha’atzmaut (Israeli Independence Day) celebration. “I am absolutely convinced that our friendship between the two nations is unbreakable.” (The Jerusalem Post, May 9, 2008)
“I pledge to you that I will do whatever I can in whatever capacity to not only ensure Israel’s security, but also to ensure that the people of Israel may thrive and prosper and build on the enormous promise that was made 60 years ago.” (The Jerusalem Post, May 9, 2008)
“As we celebrate six decades of independence, we know that more work remains to be done to secure a lasting peace for the children of Israel,” said Obama, who mentioned his 2006 visit to Israel in which he was impressed by the resolve of a population that lives under nearly constant threats to its security. (The Jerusalem Post, May 9, 2008)
“So let us honor the independence of this great nation; let us celebrate the achievements of six decades; and let us renew the friendship between our nations, and the solemn promise to seek lasting peace and security for the people of Israel.” (The Jerusalem Post, May 9, 2008)
“My belief is that Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, one of our strongest allies anywhere in the world,” Obama said in an interview with JTA. (The Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008)
“I don’t consider myself in any camp other than the common sense camp,” Obama said when asked if he favors those who see the Israel alliance as uppermost or those who advocate greater balance. “It is dangerously simplistic to think that our only options with respect to US foreign policy are to be unquestioning in our approach to Israel-Palestinian relations or alternatively to fail to recognize the special relationship and the historic friendship and bonds that exist between the United States and Israel.” (The Jerusalem Post, April 10, 2008)
Barack Obama described the Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s views on America -- including its relationship with Israel -- as fundamentally “distorted.” Wright is Obama’s longtime pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, an Afrocentric church on Chicago’s South Side. “The remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial,” Obama said. “They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country -- a view that sees white racism as endemic and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America. A view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.” (JTA, March 18, 2008).
Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama stressed his “stalwart” support for Israel and his ties to American Jews, during a presidential debate with rival candidate Hillary Clinton. “I have been very clear in my denunciations of Minister Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic comments. I did not solicit this support.” Obama leveled criticism on Farrakhan’s anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements, calling them “unacceptable and reprehensible.” He added that has always been “a stalwart friend of Israel’s” and said he considers Israel to be one of the U.S.’ “most important allies in the region [Mideast].” (Haaretz, February 27, 2007)
“I think that their security is sacrosanct.” (Haaretz, February 27, 2007)
“I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt an unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, then you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress. ” (The Jerusalem Post, February 25, 2008)
“There was 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. 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.” (The Jerusalem Post, February 25, 2008 and JTA, February 24, 2008)
“Frankly some of the commentary that I’ve seen which suggests guilt by association or the notion that unless we are never 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.” (JTA, February 24, 2008)
“Some of my earliest and most ardent supporters came from the Jewish community in Chicago.” (JTA, January 7, 2008)
“My support within in the Jewish community has been much more significant than my support within the Muslim community. I welcome and seek the support of the Muslim and Arab communities.” (JTA, January 7, 2008)
Obama said a book arguing that the Israel lobby does not represent U.S. interests is “dead wrong.” (September 12, 2007)
“I support the recent agreement to increase military assistance, as part of the United States’ unique defense relationship with Israel, which serves the security interests of both our countries. The current Administration’s failed policies in Iraq, in a war that never should have been authorized, have strengthened Iran and emboldened Hamas and Hizbullah, heightening the threats to Israel.” (The Jerusalem Post, August 22, 2007)
That makes it more important than ever that the United States live up to its commitment to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge, which will help Israel deter and repel attacks from as far as Teheran and as close as Gaza.
“Israel is our most reliable ally and the only established democracy in the Middle East. Israel’s security and close US-Israel cooperation is the linchpin of so much of what we want to achieve in the Middle East.
The United States and Israel share important interests - promoting a peaceful Middle East, combating terrorism, and encouraging reform in the Arab and Muslim world. We share adversaries - Iran, Syria, Hamas, and Hizbullah. And we share deep economic, cultural, academic, and scientific ties that benefit both our nations.
The special relationship between the United States and Israel requires an open and honest dialogue, and strong personal ties, between our nations' leaders. As President, I would maintain regular communication with the Israeli Prime Minister, and instruct members of my administration to do the same at all levels.
I would continue and deepen the strategic dialogue between our nations' defense establishments, insist on fully funding military assistance to Israel to ensure it can defend itself, and expand cooperation on the development of the Arrow and other missile defense systems.
Israel’s security - which is of vital importance to the United States - can best be guaranteed by reaching negotiated peace agreements with its neighbors. But Israel must have credible partners with whom to negotiate.
As President, I would actively involve myself in the effort to strengthen moderate Palestinians and others who can be such partners, and to make such negotiations successful, while working to isolate and weaken those who seek Israel’s destruction. But I would never try to dictate to Israel what its security requires. The United States should never try to drag Israel to, or block Israel from, the negotiating table.
Finally, I would pursue a comprehensive strategy - of direct engagement, increased economic pressure through international and US sanctions, and keeping the military option on the table - to keep Iran from achieving its goal of acquiring nuclear weapons, which is a danger we cannot tolerate.
Just last week, I introduced legislation to make it easier for states to divest their pension funds from companies that support Iran’s oil and gas industry. Israel does not have the luxury of ignoring the Iranian president's genocidal threats, and neither should the United States.” (The Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2007)
“Back in January of 2006... I made my first trip to the Holy Land. It is a place unlike any other on this earth – a place filled with so much promise of what we truly can be as people; a place where we’ve learned how in a flash, violence and hatred and intolerance can turn that promise to rubble and send too many lives to their early graves. Now most will travel to the holy sites: the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Dome of the Rock or the Western Wall. They make a journey to be humbled before God. And I too am blessed to have seen Israel this way, up close and on the ground in quiet spaces and quiet moments.
But I am also fortunate to have seen Israel from the air. On my journey that January day, I flew on an IDF helicopter to the border zone. The helicopter took us over the most troubled and dangerous areas and that narrow strip between the West Bank and the Mediterranean Sea. At that height, I could see the hills and the terrain that generations have walked across. I could truly see how close everything is and why peace through security is the only way for Israel.
Our helicopter landed in the town of Kiryat Shmona on the border. What struck me first about the village was how familiar it looked. The houses and streets looked like ones you might find in a suburb in America. I could imagine young children riding their bikes down the streets. I could imagine the sounds of their joyful play just like my own daughters. There were cars in the driveway. The shrubs were trimmed. The families were living their lives.
And then, I saw a house that had been hit with one of Hezbollah’s Katyusha rockets. The family who lived in the house was lucky to be alive. They had been asleep in another part when the rocket hit. They described the explosion. They talked about the fire and the shrapnel. They spoke about what might have been if the rocket had come screaming into their home at another time when they weren’t asleep but sitting peacefully in the now destroyed part of the house.
It is an experience I keep close to my heart. Not because it is unique, but because we know that too many others have seen the same kind of destruction, have lost their loved ones to suicide bombers and live in fear of when the next attack might hit.
Just six months after I visited, Hezbollah launched four 4000 rocket attacks just like the one that destroyed the home in Kiryat Shmona, and kidnapped Israeli service members. And we pray for all of the service members who have been kidnapped: Gilad Shalit, Eldad Regev, and Ehud Goldwasser, and I met with his family this week. I offered to help in any way I can.
It is important to remember this history—that Israel had unilaterally withdrawn from Lebanon only to have Iran supply Hezbollah with thousands of rockets.
Our job is to never forget that the threat of violence is real. Our job is to renew the United States’ efforts to help Israel achieve peace with its neighbors while remaining vigilant against those who do not share this vision. Our job is to do more than lay out another road map; our job is to rebuild the road to real peace and lasting security throughout the region.
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. And when we see all of the growing threats in the region: from Iran to Iraq to the resurgence of al-Qaeda to the reinvigoration of Hamas and Hezbollah, that loyalty and that friendship will guide me as we begin to lay the stones that will build the road that takes us from the current instability to lasting peace and security.
It won’t be easy. Some of those stones will be heavy and tough for the United States to carry. Others with be heavy and tough for Israel to carry. And even more will be difficult for the world. But together, we will begin again.
Obama welcomed a hike in defense assistance to Israel.
“You know, when I think about the Zionist idea, I think
about how my feelings about Israel were shaped as a young man -- as a
child, in fact. I had a camp counselor when I was in sixth grade who was
Jewish-American but who had spent time in Israel, and during the course
of this two-week camp he shared with me the idea of returning to a
homeland and what that meant for people who had suffered from the
Holocaust, and he talked about the idea of preserving a culture when a
people had been uprooted with the view of eventually returning home.
There was something so powerful and compelling for me, maybe because I
was a kid who never entirely felt like he was rooted. That was part of
my upbringing, to be traveling and always having a sense of values and
culture but wanting a place. So that is my first memory of thinking
about Israel. And then that mixed with a great affinity for the idea of social
justice that was embodied in the early Zionist movement and the kibbutz,
and the notion that not only do you find a place but you also have this
opportunity to start over and to repair the breaches of the past. I
found this very appealing.” (In an interview with The Atlantic Magazine reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, May 12, 2008)
Speech to 2008 AIPAC Policy Conference
It’s great to see so many friends from across the country. I want to congratulate Howard Friedman, David Victor and Howard Kohr on a successful conference, and on the completion of a new headquarters just a few blocks away.
Before I begin, I want to say that I know some provocative emails have been circulating throughout Jewish communities across the country. A few of you may have gotten them. They’re filled with tall tales and dire warnings about a certain candidate for President. And all I want to say is – let me know if you see this guy named Barack Obama, because he sounds pretty frightening.
But if anyone has been confused by these emails, I want you to know that today I’ll be speaking from my heart, and as a true friend of Israel. And I know that when I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends. Good friends. Friends who share my strong commitment to make sure that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever.
One of the many things that I admire about AIPAC is that you fight for this common cause from the bottom up. The lifeblood of AIPAC is here in this room – grassroots activists of all ages, from all parts of the country, who come to Washington year after year to make your voices heard. Nothing reflects the face of AIPAC more than the 1,200 students who have travelled here to make it clear to the world that the bond between Israel and the United States is rooted in more than our shared national interests – it’s rooted in the shared values and shared stories of our people. And as President, I will work with you to ensure that it this bond strengthened.
I first became familiar with the story of Israel when I was eleven years old. I learned of the long journey and steady determination of the Jewish people to preserve their identity through faith, family and culture. Year after year, century after century, Jews carried on their traditions, and their dream of a homeland, in the face of impossible odds.
The story made a powerful impression on me. I had grown up without a sense of roots. My father was black, he was from Kenya, and he left us when I was two. My mother was white, she was from Kansas, and I’d moved with her to Indonesia and then back to Hawaii. In many ways, I didn’t knowwhere I came from. So I was drawn to the belief that you could sustain a spiritual, emotional and cultural identity. And I deeply understood the Zionist idea – that there is always a homeland at the center of our story.
I also learned about the horror of the Holocaust, and the terrible urgency it brought to the journey home to Israel. For much of my childhood, I lived with my grandparents. My grandfather had served in World War II, and so had my great uncle. He was a Kansas boy, who probably never expected to see Europe – let alone the horrors that awaited him there. And for months after he came home from Germany, he remained in a state of shock, alone with the painful memories that wouldn’t leave his head.
You see, my great uncle had been a part of the 89th Infantry Division – the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp. They liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, on an April day in 1945. The horrors of that camp go beyond our capacity to imagine. Tens of thousands died of hunger, torture, disease, or plain murder – part of the Nazi killing machine that killed 6 million people.
When the Americans marched in, they discovered huge piles of dead bodies and starving survivors. General Eisenhower ordered Germans from the nearby town to tour the camp, so they could see what was being done in their name. He ordered American troops to tour the camp, so they could see the evil they were fighting against. He invited Congressmen and journalists to bear witness. And he ordered that photographs and films be made. Explaining his actions, Eisenhower said that he wanted to produce, “first-hand evidence of these things, if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda.”
I saw some of those very images at Yad Vashem, and they never leave you. And those images just hint at the stories that survivors of the Shoah carried with them. Like Eisenhower, each of us bears witness to anyone and everyone who would deny these unspeakable crimes, or ever speak of repeating them. We must mean what we say when we speak the words: “never again.”
It was just a few years after the liberation of the camps that David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the Jewish State of Israel. We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle, and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as President I will never compromise when it comes to Israel’s security.
Not when there are still voices that deny the Holocaust. Not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel’s destruction. Not when there are maps across the Middle East that don’t even acknowledge Israel’s existence, and government-funded textbooks filled with hatred toward Jews. Not when there are rockets raining down on Sderot, and Israeli children have to take a deep breath and summon uncommon courage every time they board a bus or walk to school.
I have long understood Israel’s quest for peace and need for security. But never more so than during my travels there two years ago. Flying in an IDF helicopter, I saw a narrow and beautiful strip of land nestled against the Mediterranean. On the ground, I met a family who saw their house destroyed by a Katyusha Rocket. I spoke to Israeli troops who faced daily threats as they maintained security near the blue line. I talked to people who wanted nothing more simple, or elusive, than a secure future for their children.
I have been proud to be a part of a strong, bi-partisan consensus that has stood by Israel in the face of all threats. That is a commitment that both John McCain and I share, because support for Israel in this country goes beyond party. But part of our commitment must be speaking up when Israel’s security is at risk, and I don’t think any of us can be satisfied that America’s recent foreign policy has made Israel more secure.
Hamas now controls Gaza. Hizbollah has tightened its grip on southern Lebanon, and is flexing its muscles in Beirut. Because of the war in Iraq, Iran – which always posed a greater threat to Israel than Iraq – is emboldened, and poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States and Israel in the Middle East in a generation. Iraq is unstable, and al Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment. Israel’s quest for peace with its neighbors has stalled, despite the heavy burdens borne by the Israeli people. And America is more isolated in the region, reducing our strength and jeopardizing Israel’s safety.
The question is how to move forward. There are those who would continue and intensify this failed status quo, ignoring eight years of accumulated evidence that our foreign policy is dangerously flawed. And then there are those who would lay all of the problems of the Middle East at the doorstep of Israel and its supporters, as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all trouble in the region. These voices blame the Middle East’s only democracy for the region’s extremism. They offer the false promise that abandoning a stalwart ally is somehow the path to strength. It is not, it never has been, and it never will be.
Our alliance is based on shared interests and shared values. Those who threaten Israel threaten us. Israel has always faced these threats on the front lines. And I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security.
That starts with ensuring Israel’s qualitative military advantage. I will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat – from Gaza to Tehran. Defense cooperation between the United States and Israel is a model of success, and must be deepened. As President, I will implement a Memorandum of Understanding that provides $30 billion in assistance to Israel over the next decade – investments to Israel’s security that will not be tied to any other nation. First, we must approve the foreign aid request for 2009. Going forward, we can enhance our cooperation on missile defense. We should export military equipment to our ally Israel under the same guidelines as NATO. And I will always stand up for Israel’s right to defend itself in the United Nations and around the world.
Across the political spectrum, Israelis understand that real security can only come through lasting peace. And that is why we – as friends of Israel – must resolve to do all we can to help Israel and its neighbors to achieve it. Because a secure, lasting peace is in Israel’s national interest. It is in America’s national interest. And it is in the interest of the Palestinian people and the Arab world. As President, I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security. And I won’t wait until the waning days of my presidency. I will take an active role, and make a personal commitment to do all I can to advance the cause of peace from the start of my Administration.
The long road to peace requires Palestinian partners committed to making the journey. We must isolate Hamas unless and until they renounce terrorism, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and abide by past agreements. There is no room at the negotiating table for terrorist organizations. That is why I opposed holding elections in 2006 with Hamas on the ballot. The Israelis and the Palestinian Authority warned us at the time against holding these elections. But this Administration pressed ahead, and the result is a Gaza controlled by Hamas, with rockets raining down on Israel.
The Palestinian people must understand that progress will not come through the false prophets of extremism or the corrupt use of foreign aid. The United States and the international community must stand by Palestinians who are committed to cracking down on terror and carrying the burden of peacemaking. I will strongly urge Arab governments to take steps to normalize relations with Israel, and to fulfill their responsibility to pressure extremists and provide real support for President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. Egypt must cut off the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. Israel can also advance the cause of peace by taking appropriate steps – consistent with its security – to ease the freedom of movement for Palestinians, improve economic conditions in the West Bank, and to refrain from building new settlements – as it agreed to with the Bush Administration at Annapolis.
Let me be clear. Israel’s security is sacrosanct. It is non-negotiable. The Palestinians need a state that is contiguous and cohesive, and that allows them to prosper – but any agreement with the Palestinian people must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, with secure, recognized and defensible borders. Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided. I have no illusions that this will be easy. It will require difficult decisions on both sides. But Israel is strong enough to achieve peace, if it has partners who are committed to the goal. Most Israelis and Palestinians want peace, and we must strengthen their hand. The United States must be a strong and consistent partner in this process – not to force concessions, but to help committed partners avoid stalemate and the kind of vacuums that are filled by violence. That’s what I commit to do as President of the United States.
The threats to Israel start close to home, but they don’t end there. Syria continues its support for terror and meddling in Lebanon. And Syria has taken dangerous steps in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, which is why Israeli action was justified to end that threat.
I also believe that the United States has a responsibility to support Israel’s efforts to renew peace talks with the Syrians. We must never force Israel to the negotiating table, but neither should we ever block negotiations when Israel’s leaders decide that they may serve Israeli interests. As President, I will do whatever I can to help Israel succeed in these negotiations. And success will require the full enforcement of Security Council Resolution 1701 in Lebanon, and a stop to Syria’s support for terror. It is time for this reckless behavior to come to an end.
There is no greater threat to Israel – or to the peace and stability of the region – than Iran. Now this audience is made up of both Republicans and Democrats, and the enemies of Israel should have no doubt that, regardless of party, Americans stand shoulder-to-shoulder in our commitment to Israel’s security. So while I don't want to strike too partisan a note here today, I do want to address some willful mischaracterizations of my positions.
The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region. It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raise the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. Its President denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat.
But just as we are clear-eyed about the threat, we must be clear about the failure of today’s policy. We knew, in 2002, that Iran supported terrorism. We knew Iran had an illicit nuclear program. We knew Iran posed a grave threat to Israel. But instead of pursuing a strategy to address this threat, we ignored it and instead invaded and occupied Iraq. When I opposed the war, I warned that it would fan the flames of extremism in the Middle East. That is precisely what happened in Iran – the hardliners tightened their grip, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected President in 2005. And the United States and Israel are less secure.
I respect Senator McCain, and look forward to a substantive debate with him these next five months. But on this point, we have differed, and we will differ. Senator McCain refuses to understand or acknowledge the failure of the policy that he would continue. He criticizes my willingness to use strong diplomacy, but offers only an alternate reality – one where the war in Iraq has somehow put Iran on its heels. The truth is the opposite. Iran has strengthened its position. Iran is now enriching uranium, and has reportedly stockpiled 150 kilos of low enriched uranium. Its support for terrorism and threats toward Israel have increased. Those are the facts, they cannot be denied, and I refuse to continue a policy that has made the United States and Israel less secure.
Senator McCain offers a false choice: stay the course in Iraq, or cede the region to Iran. I reject this logic because there is a better way. Keeping all of our troops tied down indefinitely in Iraq is not the way to weaken Iran – it is precisely what has strengthened it. It is a policy for staying, not a plan for victory. I have proposed a responsible, phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq. We will get out as carefully as we were careless getting in. We will finally pressure Iraq’s leaders to take meaningful responsibility for their own future.
We will also use all elements of American power to pressure Iran. I will do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. That starts with aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions, but with a clear-eyed understanding of our interests. We have no time to waste. We cannot unconditionally rule out an approach that could prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. We have tried limited, piecemeal talks while we outsource the sustained work to our European allies. It is time for the United States to lead.
There will be careful preparation. We will open up lines of communication, build an agenda, coordinate closely with our allies, and evaluate the potential for progress. Contrary to the claims of some, I have no interest in sitting down with men like Ahmadinejad just for the sake of talking. But as President of the United States, I would be willing to lead tough and principled diplomacy with the appropriate Iranian leader at a time and place of my choosing – if, and only if – it can advance the interests of the United States.
Only recently have some come to think that diplomacy by definition cannot be tough. They forget the example of Truman, and Kennedy and Reagan. These Presidents understood that diplomacy backed by real leverage was a fundamental tool of statecraft. And it is time to once again make American diplomacy a tool to succeed, not just a means of containing ailure. We will pursue this diplomacy with no illusions about the Iranian regime. Instead, we will present a clear choice. If you abandon your dangerous nuclear program, support for terror, and threats to Israel, there will be meaningful incentives – including the lifting of sanctions, and political and economic integration with the international community. If you refuse, we will ratchet up the pressure.
My presidency will strengthen our hand as we restore our standing. Our willingness to pursue diplomacy will make it easier to mobilize others to join our cause. If Iran fails to change course when presented with this choice by the United States, it will be clear – to the people of Iran, and to the world – that the Iranian regime is the author of its own isolation. That will strengthen our hand with Russia and China as we insist on stronger sanctions in the Security Council. And we should work with Europe, Japan and the Gulf states to find every avenue outside the UN to isolate the Iranian regime – from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions, to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran, to boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.
I was interested to see Senator McCain propose divestment as a source of leverage – not the bigoted divestment that has sought to punish Israeli scientists and academics, but divestment targeted at the Iranian regime. It’s a good concept, but not a new one. I introduced legislation over a year ago that would encourage states and the private sector to divest from companies that do business in Iran. This bill has bipartisan support, but for reasons that I’ll let him explain, Senator McCain never signed on. Meanwhile, an anonymous Senator is blocking the bill. It is time to pass this into law so that we can tighten the squeeze on the Iranian regime. We should also pursue other unilateral sanctions that target Iranian banks and assets.
And we must free ourselves from the tyranny of oil. The price of a barrel of oil is one of the most dangerous weapons in the world. Petrodollars pay for weapons that kill American troops and Israeli citizens. And the Bush Administration’s policies have driven up the price of oil, while its energy policy has made us more dependent on foreign oil and gas. It’s time for the United States to take real steps to end our addiction to oil. And we can join with Israel, building on last year’s US-Israel Energy Cooperation Act, to deepen our partnership in developing alternative sources of energy by increasing scientific collaboration and joint research and development. The surest way to increase our leverage in the long term is to stop bankrolling the Iranian regime.
Finally, let there be no doubt: I will always keep the threat of military action on the table to defend our security and our ally Israel. Sometimes there are no alternatives to confrontation. But that only makes diplomacy more important. If we must use military force, we are more likely to succeed, and will have far greater support at home and abroad, if we have exhausted our diplomatic efforts.
That is the change we need in our foreign policy. Change that restores American power and influence. Change accompanied by a pledge that I will make known to allies and adversaries alike: that America maintains an unwavering friendship with Israel, and an unshakeable commitment to its security.
As members of AIPAC, you have helped advance this bipartisan consensus to support and defend our ally Israel. And I am sure that today on Capitol Hill you will be meeting with members of Congress and spreading the word. But we are here because of more than policy. We are here because the values we hold dear are deeply embedded in the story of Israel.
Just look at what Israel has accomplished in 60 years. From decades of struggle and the terrible wake of the Holocaust, a nation was forged to provide a home for Jews from all corners of the world – from Syria to Ethiopia to the Soviet Union. In the face of constant threats, Israel has triumphed. In the face of constant peril, Israel has prospered. In a state of constant insecurity, Israel has maintained a vibrant and open discourse, and a resilient commitment to the rule of law.
As any Israeli will tell you, Israel is not a perfect place, but like the United States it sets an example for all when it seeks a more perfect future. These same qualities can be found among American Jews. It is why so many Jewish Americans have stood by Israel, while advancing the American story. Because there is a commitment embedded in the Jewish faith and tradition: to freedom and fairness; to social justice and equal opportunity. To tikkun olam – the obligation to repair this world.
I will never forget that I would not be standing here today if it weren’t for that commitment. In the great social movements in our country’s history, Jewish and African Americans have stood shoulder to shoulder. They took buses down south together. They marched together. They bled together. And Jewish Americans like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were willing to die alongside a black man – James Chaney – on behalf of freedom and equality.
Their legacy is our inheritance. We must not allow the relationship between Jews and African Americans to suffer. This is a bond that must be strengthened. Together, we can rededicate ourselves to end prejudice and combat hatred in all of its forms. Together, we can renew our commitment to justice. Together, we can join our voices together, and in doing so make even the mightiest of walls fall down.
That work must include our shared commitment to Israel. You and I know that we must do more than stand still. Now is the time to be vigilant in facing down every foe, just as we move forward in seeking a future of peace for the children of Israel, and for all children. Now is the time to stand by Israel as it writes the next chapter in its extraordinary journey. Now is the time to join together in the work of repairing this world.
In addition to each candidate’s personal views, another important aspect in evaluating candidates and their foreign policy agendas is to take a look at each candidate’s team of foreign policy and national security advisers. Below is a list of Senator Obama’s foreign policy team. Some play an active day-to-day role; others are not as centrally involved.
Madeleine K. Albright, Former Secretary of State and currently Chairperson of the National Democratic Institute, Principal of The Albright Group LLC and Chair and Principal of Albright Capital Management LLC
Former Amb. Jeffrey Bader, President Clinton’s National Security Council Asia specialist and now head of Brookings’s China center, national security adviser
David Boren, President of the University of Oklahoma, former Senator and Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence
John Brennan, President and CEO of the Analysis Corp., an intelligence contractor in McLeab, Virginia
Mark Brzezinski, President Clinton’s National Security Council Southeast Europe specialist and now a partner at law firm McGuireWoods, national security adviser
Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s national security adviser and now a Center for Strategic and International Studies counselor and trustee and frequent guest on PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, foreign policy adviser
Warren Christopher, Senior Partner at O’Melveny & Myers LLP and former Secretary of State (1993-1997)
Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, former Senior Vice President for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress, and Director for Non-Proliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Gen. Wesley K. Clark, Former Supreme Allied Commander Europe for NATO (1997-2000)
Richard A. Clarke, President Clinton and President George W. Bush’s counterterrorism czar and now head of Good Harbor Consulting and an ABC News contributor, sometimes Obama adviser
Gregory B. Craig, State Department director of policy planning under President Clinton and now a partner at law firm Williams & Connolly, foreign policy adviser
Roger W. Cressey, former National Security Council counterterrorism staffer and now Good Harbor Consulting president and NBC News consultant, has advised Obama but says not exclusive
Ivo H. Daalder, National Security Council director for European affairs during President Clinton’s administration and now a Brookings senior fellow, foreign policy adviser
Richard Danzig, President Clinton’s Navy secretary and now a Center for Strategic and International Studies fellow and consultant to the Department of Defense on bioterrorism, national security adviser
Robert Einhorn, Senior Advisor in the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former assistant secretary for nonproliferation at the State Department
Lee Feinstein, former National Security Director/Coordinator for Hillary Clinton for President, Principal Deputy Director of the State Dept. Policy Planning Staff in the Clinton Administration, and former Senior Advisor for Peacekeeping and Peace Enforcement Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (1994-1995)
Philip H. Gordon, President Clinton’s National Security Council staffer for Europe and now a Brookings senior fellow, national security adviser
Maj. Gen. J. (Jonathan) Scott Gration, a 32-year Air Force veteran (retired two star general) and now CEO of Africa anti-poverty effort Millennium Villages, national security adviser and surrogate
Lee H. Hamilton, President and Director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs and Intelligence Committees
Eric H. Holder, Jr., Partner at Covington and Burling LLP, and former Deputy Attorney General
Lawrence J. Korb, Assistant Secretary of Defense from 1981-1985 and now a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, informal foreign policy adviser
Daniel Kurtzer, former U.S. ambassador to Israel, recently co-wrote a book on negotiating Arab-Israeli peace
W. Anthony Lake, President Clinton’s national security adviser and now a professor at Georgetown’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, foreign policy adviser
Mark Lippert, Obama Senate office staff member
James M. Ludes, former defense and foreign policy adviser to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and now executive director of the American Security Project, national security adviser
Eric Lynn, Jewish Affairs staffer for Obama, former senior legislative assistant to Rep. Peter Deutsch (D-Fla.)
Robert Malley, President Clinton’s Middle East envoy and now International Crisis Group’s Middle East and North Africa program director, national security adviser
Denis McDonough, Center for American Progress senior fellow and former policy adviser to then-Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle, national security coordinator
Michael A. McFaul, Director of the Center on Democracy, Development, and Rule of Law at Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he co-directs the Iran Democracy Project, and author of several books on Russian politics and history
Gen. Merrill A. (“Tony”) McPeak, former Air Force chief of staff and now a business consultant, national security adviser
Rep. Patrick Murphy, Pennsylvania Congressman and Iraq war veteran
Sam Nunn, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, and former Senator from Georgia
Leon Panetta, Director of the Panetta Institute and former Chief of Staff to President Clinton
William Perry, Senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Professor at Stanford University, and former Secretary of Defense
Samantha Power, Harvard-based human rights scholar and Pulitzer Prize winning writer, foreign policy adviser
Jack Reed, Rhode Island Senator, serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee
Ben Rhodes, Obama’s national security speechwriter, and Special Assistant to President Lee H. Hamilton at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
Susan E. Rice, President Clinton’s Africa specialist at the State Department and National Security Council and now a Brookings senior fellow, foreign policy adviser
Bruce O. Riedel, former CIA officer and National Security Council staffer for Near East and Asian affairs and now a Brookings senior fellow, national security adviser
Tim Roemer, President of the Center for National Policy, former Congressman from Indiana and member of 9/11 commission
Dennis B. Ross, President Clinton’s Middle East negotiator and now a Washington Institute for Near East Policy fellow, Middle East adviser
Mara Rudman, informal advisor to the campaign, former supporter of Hillary Clinton, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and former Deputy National Security Advisor
Sarah Sewall, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance during President Clinton’s administration and now director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, national security adviser
Daniel B. Shapiro, National Security Council director for legislative affairs during President Clinton’s administration and now a lobbyist with Timmons & Company, Middle East adviser
Gayle Smith, Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, and former Special Assistant to President Bill Clinton and Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council
Theodore Sorensen, former speechwriter for President John F. Kennedy
James (Jim) Steinberg, Dean of the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas and former Deputy National Security Advisor
Mona Sutphen, former aide to President Clinton’s National Security adviser Samuel R. Berger and to United Nations ambassador Bill Richardson and now managing director of business consultancy Stonebridge, national security adviser
Robert Wexler, Democratic Congressman from Florida, Senior Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and Chairman of its Subcommittee of Europe