Opinion: Before Obama’s pro-Israel stance was a deep feeling for Palestinians


This article was originally on a blog post platform and may be missing photos, graphics or links. See About archive blog posts.

Today, Illinois’ freshman Sen. Barack Obama and Democratic candidate for president expresses a strongly pro-Israel point of view of Mideast policies, a stance which pleases the many influential Jewish leaders and supporters of Israel that are so crucial politically and financially to any realistic bid for the White House.

But as The Times’ Peter Wallsten points out in a revealing story on this website and in Thursday’s print editions, there was a time not so long ago when a young state senator named Obama spent considerable time with the local crowd of Arab-Americans in Chicago. He shared many meals and long conversations with them.


So much so, that some Palestinian-American leaders currently believe that Obama shares a much more sympathetic point of view with them than he is willing to state publicly now.

As Wallsten points out, this belief comes not from any official Obama campaign literature or speaking remarks but from his long association with them in previous years, comments he made in private then and his presence at past events where anger at Israel and American Middle Eastern policy was strongly expressed.

At one farewell party for a friend, where Obama also spoke, another speaker compared ‘Zionist settlers on the West Bank’ to Osama bin Laden, claiming that both had been ‘blinded by ideology.’

One friend said Obama had apologized for not addressing the Palestinian cause more but that his continuing primary campaign constrained what he could say publicly.

Read Peter’s full story here. To read Obama’s Position Paper on Israel from 2000, click on the Read more line below.

--Andrew Malcolm


Barack Obama believes that moral and strategic imperatives require strong support and a close relationship between the United States and Israel. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and this country’s most critical and stable ally in that vital region. For these reasons the United States must continue to aid Israel in the military, economic and diplomatic spheres.

Moral and Strategic Imperatives
U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and throughout the world should be grounded in the democratic values central to this country’s success. As the strongest and most committed democracy in the Middle East, Israel stands out by sharing with us a strong commitment to democratic values; including freedom of the press, freedom of religious expression and regular, competitive elections. These commonly held values mandate the United States fulfill the commitment to strengthen fellow democracies.

In addition to the moral mandate, our close ties with Israel are essential to protecting and promoting U.S. interests in the region, including: the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by certain rogue regimes; state-sponsored terrorism; the potential disruption of access to Middle East oil; and the spread of religious radicalism in the Middle East. Israelis have suffered from an increase in terrorist activities since the beginning of the peace process; progress achieved through negotiations makes the terrorists more determined to commit acts of violence to undermine the process.

For these reasons, Israel’s defense needs are dramatically increasing. To continue to counter these threats, Israel must retain a significant qualitative edge over her enemies to compensate for their quantitative advantage. Israel must upgrade its Air Force, build new missile defenses, and acquire adequate advance surveillance and early warning technology. This requires ongoing assistance from the United States.

To meet these goals, Senator Obama supports Israel’s recent proposal to
gradually increase military assistance while phasing out economic assistance over a ten-year period. The Senator would support greater economic assistance, if a reversal in Israel’s economic condition occurred.

The Senator also believes the Wye aid package is needed now and should not be tied to the larger debate over federal spending, tax cuts and Social Security.


The Peace Process
Throughout its history, Israel has been anxious to make peace with its Arab neighbors. If successful, the current peace process is a potential opportunity for Israel to increase its security, normalize relations with its neighbors, and create a more stable and prosperous Middle East.

Resolution of the conflict depends on direct negotiations between the parties based on mutual respect and recognition. The United States’ commitment to Israel must continue so Israel can negotiate with its former and current adversaries from a position of strength. Senator Obama believes that Israel can take risks for peace only because of unwavering American support.

The Status of Jerusalem
Like all sovereign nations, Israel has the right to determine the location of its nation’s capital. Jerusalem should remain united and should be recognized as Israel’s capital. Mr. Obama shares in the disappointment over President Clinton’s recent decision to use the waiver provision contained in the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 to delay the transfer of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.