Israel on Obama
U.S. President Barack Obama has had remarkably close connections with the American-Jewish community throughout his political career.
His wife’s first cousin, once removed, Rabbi Capers Funnye, Jr., is the first African-American member of the Chicago Board of Rabbis and the chief rabbi of the Beth Shalom B’nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Congregation in southwest Chicago.
Mr. Obama has had Jewish mentors throughout his political career. Philanthropists like Bettylu Saltzman, Penny Pritzker, and Lester Crown played major roles in his campaigns. When he launched his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination in late 2006, Boston philanthropist Alan Solomont was his fund-raising chief.
In the 2008 presidential election he won 78% of the Jewish vote. Only African-Americans voted for him in higher numbers.
Abner Mikva, a former congressman, federal judge, and counsel to Bill Clinton, jokingly told the Chicago Jewish News during the campaign, “I think when this is all over, people are going to say that Barack Obama is the first Jewish president.”
Mr. Obama gave his first foreign policy speech as a presidential candidate in March 2007 at a gathering of the pro-Israel lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
During the 2008 presidential campaign his Jewish supporters handed out “Obama 08” yarmulkes and his campaign published an election blog in Hebrew.
Mr. Obama’s two top advisors, chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod are both Jewish. Mr. Emanuel served as a civilian volunteer working as a mechanic with the Israel Defence Force during the First Gulf War.
The Israeli view of Mr. Obama has been somewhat mixed, even hostile. A recent press release by the Zionist Organization of America quoted the organisation president detailing Mr. Obama’s faults. Excerpts:
“Israelis have seen the Obama Administration, from the President down, publicly condemning and pressuring Israel while ignoring or down-playing Palestinian intransigence, terrorism and incitement to hatred and murder.
“They have seen how a sworn enemy of Israel like Syria has been courted and how the Administration has been slow to move on imposing any sort of sanctions against Iran.
“They have seen the President inaccurately write off Jewish claims to statehood as some sort of consolation prize for the Holocaust in his June 2009 Cairo speech.
“They have seen Obama, in a major speech to the U.N., couple America’s commitment to Israel’s security with Israel ‘respecting’ the legitimate claims and rights of the Palestinians.
“They have also seen his Administration increasing aid to $900-million annually to a Palestinian Authority that refuses to negotiate, make concessions or end terrorism or incitement to hatred and murder against Israel.”