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Conservatives launch group to attack supporters of Obama’s Israel policies

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Conservatives launched a group to wage a campaign against President Obama’s Middle East policy and its supporters.

The Emergency Committee for Israel’s Leadership, which will bring together neoconservative Republicans and evangelical Christians, will initiate the campaign with an attack ad against Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania against the GOP’s Pat Toomey.

The group’s board includes William Kristol, who edits the neoconservative flagship, the Weekly Standard; conservative writer and activist Rachel Abrams, who is married to Elliott Abrams, the deputy national security adviser under President George W. Bush; and Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate who leads the group American Values.

Kristol described the group as “the pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community.” Sestak is favored by J Street, a pro-Israel group that advocates for an assertive American posture toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The ad, which will air this week on Fox and CNN, as well as during a Philadelphia Phillies game, opens by asking, “Does Congressman Joe Sestak understand that Israel is America’s ally?” The ad claims that he appeared at a fund-raiser for the Council on American Islamic Relations, a group that federal authorities have tied to Hamas.

CAIR denied the allegations and was never formally charged.

The FBI at one time used CAIR for outreach to the Muslim community, but cut ties in January 2009, two years after Sestak’s appearance. It is not clear whether the FBI policy of not cooperating with the group remains in place.

The ad goes on to accuse Sestak of condemning Israel’s blockade of Gaza and refusing to sign a letter drafted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee asserting U.S. support for Israel. The letter signed by Sestak, and backed by J Street, called for an easing of the Gaza blockade that would incorporate Israel’s security needs. Israel instituted such a policy in recent weeks.

A spokesman for Sestak rejected claims that he is anti-Israel.

"Joe is a strong supporter of the State of Israel,” April Mellody told Politico. “His record is clear on the matter and in stark contrast to his opponent, who voted against aid for Israel."

A similar group, Freedom’s Watch, was founded in 2007. It folded after the 2008 election, in part because it had minimal impact on the results of the election.

The Emergency Committee also plans to become involved in other congressional races, according to its executive director, Noah Pollak.
 

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