Florida: Point/counterpoint on Obama’s record on Israel

Competing Op-Eds in the Palm Beach Post offer divergent views of Barack Obama’s record on Israel and Jewish-related issues.

Jewish congressman Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) defends Obama’s stance on Israel and slams email smears against the presumed Democratic nominee. He writes:

Rather than deal in facts, including Sen. Obama’s strong record on Israel, these e-mails and ads focus on guilt by association and are characterized by double standards…

Since taking office in 2005, Sen. Obama has an A-plus record on issues important to the American Jewish community. He has been a staunch supporter of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and fought to ensure Israel’s security in the face of Palestinian terrorism, Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket attacks, threats from Syria and a growing Iranian nuclear threat.

But like the vast majority of the American Jewish community, Sen. Obama believes that a comprehensive settlement – Israel and a peaceful Palestinian state living side-by-side – is the best way to ensure Israel’s security and guarantee that Israel will remain a Jewish state.

In Florida, Sen. Obama laid out the case why, under his presidency, the United States and our ally Israel would be more secure. He also described in stark terms the differences between the direction of America’s foreign policy under his leadership and that of John McCain, who has stridently declared that he will continue to carry out the same failed foreign policies – in Iraq, throughout the Middle East and elsewhere – of President Bush. Under Sen. McCain’s perverse logic, if the policy is broken, don’t fix it.

No one has been more resolute than Barack Obama in addressing the most serious security threat facing the U.S. and Israel – a nuclear Iran. He has stated emphatically that the world must work to stop Iran’s uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran, which he describes as a “radical theocracy,” from acquiring weapons. To that end, Sen. Obama introduced the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act, which would deny Tehran billions of dollars in energy revenues that are used to fuel its nuclear program and finance its terrorist network.

While not rejecting the use of force, Sen. Obama has taken a page from past presidents in calling for “strong diplomacy” with Iran.

Meanwhile, Matthew Brooks of the Republican Jewish Coalition offers a counterpoint. He writes:

Having served barely three years in the U.S. Senate – two of which he has spent running for president – Sen. Obama’s record is thin. Jewish voters need to evaluate his candidacy by asking additional questions: What role does he see for America in the Middle East? Will he be a friend to Israel? What are the influences that have shaped him? To whom does he turn for advice and guidance? And whom might he ask to serve in his administration?

Brooks finds Obama guilty by association: guilty for not firing national campaign co-chairman Gen. Merrill “Tony” McPeak (for saying U.S. Jews are the obstacle to Mideast peace), guilty for being supported by controversial Columbia University professor Rashid Khalidi (whom Brooks calls a spokesman for the PLO, though Khalidi says he never served in that role), guilty for sitting in an audience while a young Palestinian-American recited a poem accusing Israel of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians.

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