Ayalon: I’m trying to help Obama

Former Israeli Ambassador to the US, Danny Ayalon, has been getting slammed for a recent op-ed in which he said Barack Obama’s candidacy should be met with “with some degree of concern.”

First, his successor, Salai Merridor, took a swipe at Ayalon, asserting that Israel has no intention of interfering in American elections: “Opinions to the contrary articulated by private Israeli citizens, including former officials, do not represent in any way the policy of the Government of Israel.”

Then an editorial in Ha’aretz ripped into Ayalon again, lumping his comments together with smears about Obama’s Islamic background that have been spread in the Jewish community.

In an interview with JTA, Ayalon shot back. First, he said he had been careful to steer clear of the Muslim smear, and wanted only to shift the discussion away from slander and towards a “substantial” debate about the candidate’s attitude towards Israel.

Second, Ayalon denied that he suggested Obama was being less than fully honest about his feelings about Israel, saying that he meant only that, in his two meetings with Obama, the senator had asked more questions than he answered.

Third, he noted that another former Israeli diplomat, Alon Pinkas, has weighed in with a defense of Obama, without a peep from the commentariat.

Fourth, his intention was to urge Obama to be more forthcoming about his commitments, and even took credit for Obama’s recent comments in an interview with Jewish media in which he pledged to maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge over the Arabs.

And fifth, he denied that the op-ed had any connection to his affiliation with Nefesh B’Nefesh, whose chairman and founder, Tony Gelbart, endorsed Rudy Giuliani the day after Ayalon’s op-ed was published. On Sunday, Giuliani spoke at the Boca Raton Synagogue, who rabbi, Yehoshua Fass, is another Nefesh founder.

“Nefesh B’Nefesh is apolitical, not for profit,” Ayalon said. “Certainly we did not discuss politics there. It goes without saying.”

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