Dean reassures Jewish leaders on Israel

Howard Dean told Jewish leaders that Democrats remain committed to Israel’s security.

Dean, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, met in New York Wednesday with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the foreign policy umbrella for Jewish groups.

“Democrats are united in our belief that those who threaten Israel threaten the United States,” Dean said.  “From the House to the Senate to the White House, Democrats will ensure that Israel can defend itself from any threat from Gaza to Tehran.”

Democrats are skittish about perceived inroads made among Jewish voters by Republicans in the latest presidential campaign. U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) does not have the same length of national experience as his rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has a long record of support for Israel.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), the first Jew on a national ticket when he ran as a Democrat in 2000 alongside Al Gore, has endorsed McCain.

In another sign of Democratic pushback, four top Jewish Obama surrogates held a conference call Wednesday with Jewish leaders in South Florida on the eve of a Lieberman tour of the region.

Dennis Ross, a former top U.S. envoy to the Middle East; U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.); Florida state Rep. Dan Gelber; and Dan Kurtzer, a former U.S. ambassador to Israel, argued that Republican policies, particularly on the Iraq war, had made Israel less safe.

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