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Obama to Reform Jews: Don’t let anyone challenge my Israel bona fides

by Ron Kampeas, JTA

December 16, 2011 | 3:54 pm

President Barack Obama speaks at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism at National Harbor in Maryland on Dec. 16. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Barack Obama speaks at the 71st General Assembly of the Union for Reform Judaism at National Harbor in Maryland on Dec. 16. Photo by REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Obama told a gathering of Reform Jewry not to let anyone challenge his record of support for Israel, which he said was “unprecedented.”

“No U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours—none,” he said in an address Friday afternoon to more than 5,000 people at the biennial conference of the Union for Reform Judaism. “Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise. It is a fact.”

The crowd at a hotel in the Maryland suburbs outside of Washington gave him a standing ovation.

Obama listed areas of close cooperation, including missile defense and Iran sanctions. Of the sanctions, he said they were the “hardest hitting” ever. He repeated his pledge that he would take “no options” off the table when it comes to forcing Iran to back down from its suspected nuclear weapons program.

Obama peppered his speech with Jewish references, starting with “Shabbat Shalom” and joking about his daughter Malia’s eagerness to attend bar and bat mitzvahs. His speech was based on the story of Joseph’s declaration “Hineni”—“Here I am”—to his father, Jacob.

To repeated applause, Obama ran through his domestic policy achievements on health care, and women’s and gay rights, among others.

Republicans have scored Obama for his at-times tense relations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, particularly over the peace process. Obama said he was still dedicated to achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace but did not allude at all to his differences with Israel over settlement building in the West Bank.

The Republican National Committee on Friday published data showing Obama vulnerable to losses among Jewish voters in key states, particularly Florida.

“The truth is, America’s security interests are intertwined with Israel’s, and when President Obama does a disservice to Israel, he does a disservice to our country as well,” RNC chairman Reince Preibus said in an Op-Ed in the conservative Human Events magazine.

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