Obama better for Israel


TEL AVIV (JTA) – As American citizens living in Israel, we share a unique perspective on the struggle against terrorism. We live on its front lines.

What many of our friends and family back in the states experienced on 9/11, we have frequently experienced here in the volatile Middle East. We are proud to be Israeli, but we are also proud to be citizens of the United States, a country where many of our parents and grandparents found refuge in the last century and which led the fight against Nazism. The United States is a nation whose values and democratic traditions we share and constantly learn from in Israel.

Barack Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, have established a firm record as true friends of Israel. They have both defended Israel’s right to self-defense against terrorism, and both have visited our country and been moved by and impressed with what we accomplish daily despite the threats facing us.
In the last eight years, the Republican administration in Washington has pursued a reckless foreign policy that has left Israel less safe and our enemies stronger than ever.

Iran has been the major beneficiary of the war in Iraq, and as a result Hamas and Hezbollah have strengthened their positions in the Gaza Strip and Lebanon. The Bush administration, whose foreign policy John McCain pledges to continue, for years failed to pursue peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and actively thwarted the Israeli government�s attempts to negotiate with Syria.

Under an Obama administration, the U.S.-Israel alliance would be strengthened, with $30 billion in new assistance over the next decade and new joint defense and energy-sector projects, including missile-defense systems and renewable resource development. Most important, Obama has pledged to work with Israeli leaders from the very beginning of his term to support them in their efforts to achieve a secure peace with our neighbors.

Obama will take no option off the table when dealing with Iran, and he has said that he will conduct tough, principled diplomacy to do everything in his power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.

Though he is a devout Christian, Obama’s views have been shaped by our traditions of tikkun olam and Zionism.

In his June speech to the annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Obama recounted his reaction as a young boy to learning about Israel’s founding.

�The story made a powerful impression on me,” he said. “I had grown up without a sense of roots. In many ways, I didn’t know where I came from. So I was drawn to the belief that you could sustain a spiritual, emotional and cultural identity. And I deeply understood the Zionist idea – that there is always a homeland at the center of our story.”

We, like many in the United States, have had to debunk persistent rumors and false information about Senator Obama.

But especially since his visit here in July, most Israelis have come to know him as a consistent supporter of Israel and a close friend to the Jewish community. His Middle East policy advisers include Dennis Ross, Daniel Kurtzer, Robert Wexler, Nita Lowey and Mel Levine – reliable friends of Israel all.

We and increasing numbers of our fellow Israelis believe that an Obama presidency will serve Israel’s interests far better than four more years like the last eight.

It is telling that when making the most important decision of his presidential campaign, Obama chose Biden to be his running mate. Biden’s first overseas trip as a U.S. senator was to Israel, in 1973, where he met with then-Prime Minister Golda Meir. He has returned numerous times, meeting with nine Israeli prime ministers.

Biden�s relationships with Israeli leaders are close and personal, and he has been praised for his ironclad support for Israel in the Senate. In fact, he has a forest here named in his honor.

In contrast, McCain chose as a running mate a foreign policy novice who has no previous discernible record on any issue related to Israel.

America needs change, and Israel requires an American partner strong enough and respected enough in the world to stand by its side.

Around the world, the U.S. position has been weakened by eight years of failed policies. Four more years of the same foreign policy will not restore America’s role as a global leader. Four more years of the same will not protect Israel nor help us address the common threat from Iran. That is why we need Barack Obama in the White House.

Joanne Yaron is chair of Democrats Abroad-Israel.

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