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Sunday, November 02, 2008

Why Israel's supporters shouldn't vote for Obama

San Diego lawyer Michael Rosen takes on the question of the hour:
IN THESE pages, Rep. Howard Berman, a California Democrat, recently did his level best to quell some of these doubts, but in an article riddled with inconsistencies and non-sequiturs.

Berman contends that McCain will perpetuate "more-of-the-same" policies initiated by President George W. Bush. Putting aside the fact that Bush has been a stalwart supporter of Israel even during perilous times such as the 2006 Lebanon War, Berman ignores the fact that while McCain agrees with many of Bush's core principles, including an unswerving dedication to Israel's security, he has frequently defied the administration's way of acting on those principles.

On one hand, Berman assails the strategy of encouraging our European allies to engage diplomatically with the Islamic Republic - a gambit that has manifestly failed. On the other, Berman contends that Obama will somehow eliminate Iran's weapons by "regaining the respect of the international community." Clearly, our attempts at multilateral diplomatic engagement haven't gotten the job done, so how will more of the same succeed? Perhaps Berman believes that a direct conversation between Obama and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is likely to produce results?

Finally, Berman asserts that only Obama "thinks through his positions before he acts," and that Obama will form "an executive team that can perform at the highest level." Can he really mean that men such as Bush and McCain simply act without thought? Banalities aside, does he truly believe that other presidents prefer advisers who perform at low levels?

The pertinent question is who will populate that executive team - responsible (if misguided) foreign policy hands like Dennis Ross, or problematic and even overtly hostile voices like Samantha Power, Robert Malley or Merrill McPeak. Again, this larger question pervades any honest assessment of Obama; he will fill about 3,000 vacancies in the executive branch, and at least a few bad apples will surely find their way in.

BUT WHILE Berman's reasoning is unsound, much like a recent case made here by Stuart Eizenstat, at least it's respectful. The same, sadly, cannot be said for other Jewish Obama supporters, for whom no calumny or tactic is beyond the pale.

Rep. Robert Wexler, a Florida Democrat, led a scurrilous attack on Gov. Sarah Palin, relying on discredited reports to suggest that she supported Patrick Buchanan, banned books, supported creationism, and seeks to convert Jews. Wexler's claims, all of which have been meticulously refuted, unfairly tarnished Palin's image in the Jewish community.

More recently, former congressman Mel Levine, one of Obama's Jewish outreach specialists, abruptly withdrew from several Southern California community debates and urged the hosts to bar the Republican Jewish Coalition from participating. The RJC, which has respectfully but unapologetically challenged Obama's positions on Israel, had previously conducted numerous debates with Jewish Democrats, including Levine himself. To their credit, the (nonpartisan) hosts of these forums, some of which I am participating in, refused to bow to the Obama campaign's pressure.

Ultimately, a candid discussion of the candidates' respective merits is precisely what is warranted by our democracy and the Jewish tradition. The concerns that have been raised about Obama cannot simply be wished away or suppressed by a refusal to acknowledge them. Many of my own Jewish friends who still have not yet made up their minds deserve the information needed to reach an educated decision.

No matter how the Jewish community ends up voting, we would do well to keep Singer's admonition in mind, and approach our polling places with our skepticism firmly in hand.
What I've seen in the past eleven days in Blue Boston is that too many Jews are just wishing their concerns about Obama away. I spoke to one lady this morning who voted absentee for Obama a week ago, and after a week of listening to me, she very much regrets her choice.

Read the whole thing.


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