There were two parts of Barack Obama’s speech today at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that resonated loudest and likely longest. First, that the United States must use all resources available—“all elements of American power”—to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. That sounds a lot like his opponent, Republican John McCain, but I can’t say I disagree.
The second point, though—that Jerusalem must remain the capitol of Israel and cannot be divided for peace—well, that seemed a bit disingenuous. Not only that, but it categorized Obama, a Democrat, as more of a hawk than President Bush or Israeli Prime Minister (for now?) Ehud Olmert. Why would Obama, who only months ago was the darling of pro-Palestinian activists and optimists, say this?
For the answer, let’s consult Tom Dine, the man who built AIPAC into a political powerhouse and fundraising behemoth:
“I know it is an emotional issue,” he told me in February. “I used to throw out that red meat when I was at AIPAC.”
Fair enough. And I’m glad Obama is defining himself, over and over again, as such a friend of Israel. Maybe the “ogre” image and all the attacks will stop. But is this really where he stands, with the Likudniks?
Maybe, maybe not. Regardless, and this is a good thing, Hamas responded to his speech by—I can’t believe I am even writing about the presidential endorsements of a foreign terrorist organization—yanking its support:
“Hamas does not differentiate between the two presidential candidates, Obama and McCain, because their policies regarding the Arab-Israel conflict are the same and are hostile to us, therefore we do have no preference and are not wishing for either of them to win.”
Updated: Jewish Current Issues compares what Obama said today with what he said at AIPAC last year and hears a very different message.
Updated Again: Trying to get the word out, Obama’s office just sent me a complete transcript and link to the video above.