CNN: Hawkish Israel supporters concerned about Obama
In an effort to shore up his support among Jewish voters, Barack Obama met privately on Sunday with 100 Jewish leaders in Ohio to tamp down concerns about his Middle East views and controversial positions from a few of his supporters.
The Clinton campaign has been actively wooing Jewish voters, in part by questioning Obama's commitment to the defense of Israel, and the meeting was arranged to enable Obama to address the concerns of the Jewish community.
The Illinois Senator has previously faced concerns from Jewish leaders.
Obama began by telling his audience, "We need to change our priorities. ... These changes are founded in a view of the world that I believe is deeply imbedded in the Jewish tradition. ... That repairing the world is a task that each of us is called upon to take up every single day."
Obama then reaffirmed his "unshakable commitment to the security of Israel and the friendship between the United States and Israel." He stated clearly that he is a Christian, not a Muslim, and explained his reluctance to criticize the minister of his church for making favorable comments about Louis Farrakhan, who has been criticized for being anti-Semitic.
"It is true that my Pastor, Jeremiah Wright, who will be retiring this month, is somebody who on occasion can say controversial things," Obama acknowledged. "He is like an old uncle who sometimes will say things that I donít agree with. ... But I have never heard an anti-Semitic [remark] made inside of our church. I have never heard anything that would suggest anti-Semitism on part of the Pastor."
Obama also addressed concerns about his relationship with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as President Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor and who recently offended many in the Jewish community when he signed a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asking for "genuine dialogue" with Hamas.
Obama stated that he has received advise from Brzezinski on Iraq and Pakistan but emphasized that "heís not one of my key advisors. Iíve had lunch with him once, Iíve exchanged emails with him maybe 3 times. ... I do not share his views with respect to Israel. I have said so clearly and unequivocally."
That might not be enough reassurance for some. Shmuel Rosner, chief US correspondent of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, told CNN, "The fact that Barack Obama consulted with such people raises some concern among pro-Israel, mostly hawkish supporters." Rosner himself is generally described as right of center and has even been called "a cheerleader for the AIPAC crowd."
However, Ira Foreman of the National Jewish Democratic Council told CNN that his group, which generally supports Democratic candidates, considers McCain, Clinton, and Obama to all be equally pro-Israel.
A recent poll found that American Jews are less concerned with the defense of Israel than with many other issues. Only 6% said that support for Israel would be the most important issue in deciding how to vote in the presidential election. Far larger numbers named the economy and jobs, health care, the war in Iraq, or terrorism and national security.
This video is from CNN.com, broadcast February 25, 2008.