McPeak cites longtime admiration for Israel

A Barack Obama adviser who made controversial remarks about American Jewish voters said he is a “long-term admirer of Israel.”

Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak, a co-chairman of the presidential campaign of Senator Obama (D-Ill.), spoke to Shalom TV in a bid to extinguish fires stemming from his 2003 interview with the Oregonian newspaper in which he blamed U.S. Middle East failures on Israel’s policies.

“We have a large vote – vote, here in favor of Israel,” he said then, referring to Jewish voters. “And no politician wants to run against it.”

In his interview with Shalom TV Friday, McPeak said such an influence was not inappropriate.

“American Jewry has some influence, just like Irish have influence about Ireland policy, just like the National Rifle Association has something to say about our arms policy,” he said. “I don’t object to interest groups or lobbying groups exercising influence.”

McPeak, a former U.S. Air Force commander, added that “I’m a long-term admirer of Israel and consider myself a friend of Israel.”

McPeak, who served for a period in Israel, said he has “fighter pilot friends and buddies in Israel who I hope are not alarmed by these scurrilous charges that I regard Israel as the bad guy in the Middle East.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition on Friday repeated its call on the Obama campaign to sack McPeak.

“The issue is not whether American Jews have any influence, the issue is who is to blame for the problems in the Middle East,” the RJC said in a statement.

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