By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency
Jerusalem - Israel by its very nature is a conservative nation. With the threat of terror attacks and war taking place at any moment, Israel deserves that status.
So when many of my Facebook friends ask me how can I as an Israeli vote for Obama, I understand where they are coming from. Just Obama's name is enough to scare anyone walking the streets of Tel Aviv, Haifa or Jerusalem.
And Barack Obama has had many friends in the past who helped create an image of a man who just might not really be a friend of Israel.
Barack Obama has associated himself with a few people who are anti-Israel advocates. Early on in his career he chose a church headed by a former Black Muslim who is a harsh anti-Israel advocate and who may be seen as tinged with anti-Semitism. This church is a member of a denomination whose governing body has taken a series of anti-Israel actions. So, at every chance, politically militant conservatives in Israel try to portray Obama as owned by Muslims and cold, even hostile, to Israel.
They have accused him of planning to collude with terrorists because he has said he would meet with the leadership of Syria or Iran to discuss peace in the Middle East.
Even President George W. Bush seemed to join the attack when, in a speech to the Israel Knesset, he tacitly compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister infamous for appeasing Adolf Hitler.
As his political fortunes and ambition climbed, he found support from George Soros, multibillionaire promoter of groups that have been consistently harsh and biased critics of the American-Israel relationship.
But is Obama really a threat to Israel?
Barack Obama made no secret of his sincere support and dedication to the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. "My view is that the United States' special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction," Obama has stated at both an AIPAC conference and in Jerusalem when meeting with Israel President Shimon Peres. Barack Obama sounds as strong as Clinton, as supportive as Bush, as friendly as Giuliani.
No other candidate has verbally pushed Iran so hard against the wall.
In one of his TV debates against McCain, Obama stated that he would use military force against Iran and do all that is needed to insure that Iran never has a nuclear weapon. Upon hearing this, US war hero John McCain stated that it would not be right to signal punches. But Obama appeared not to be frightened by Iran. So confident is Obama that he is ready to talk to Iran rather than have third parties get involved. And that speaks volumes.
"The kinds of communications that he would engage in and the pressure he envisions on Iran may differ in some respect from the other candidates," said an adviser to Barack Obama. And in a speech he made in Chicago, Obama showed his cards. He was transparent: "Let me be clear: Under no circumstances can Iran be allowed to have nuclear weapons" or Clinton's "we cannot, we should not, we must not permit Iran to build or acquire nuclear weapons."
"The world must work to stop Iran's uranium enrichment program and prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. It is far too dangerous to have nuclear weapons in the hands of a radical theocracy. And while we should take no option, including military action, off the table, sustained and aggressive diplomacy combined with tough sanctions should be our primary means to prevent Iran from building nuclear weapons."
"We need the United States to lead tough-minded diplomacy. This includes direct engagement with Iran similar to the meetings we conducted with the Soviets at the height of the Cold War, said Obama."
"Tough-minded diplomacy would include real leverage through stronger sanctions. It would mean more determined U.S diplomacy at the United Nations. It would mean harnessing the collective power of our friends in Europe who are Iran's major trading partners. It would mean a cooperative strategy with Gulf States who supply Iran with much of the energy resources it needs. It would mean unifying those states to recognize the threat of Iran and increase pressure on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. It would mean full implementation of U.S. sanctions laws. And over the long term, it would mean a focused approach from us to finally end the tyranny of oil, and developing our own alternative sources of energy to drive the price of oil down."
Barack Obama addressed US aid to Israel, saying: "We must preserve our total commitment to our unique defense relationship with Israel by fully funding military assistance and continuing work on the Arrow and related missile defense programs."
And compared to George W. Bush, Obama states: "Our job is to do more than lay out another road map."
"Our job is to rebuild the road to real peace and lasting security throughout the region. That effort begins with a clear and strong commitment to the security of Israel: Our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy. That will always be my starting point."
Obama respects Israel and Israel's democracy. "We should never seek to dictate what is best for the Israelis and their security interests. No Israel prime minister should ever feel dragged to or blocked from the negotiating table by the United States".
Is Barack Obama really as friendly to Israel as other candidates?
US Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida co-chairs Barack Obama's White House drive in the state. And why would Wexler do such thing? Because "I have spoken with Barack to discuss the dangers facing our ally Israel, and I am convinced there will be no stronger supporter of Israel than President Obama", his statement says.
Obama has emphasized his Christianity, distanced himself from Carter and Brzezinski and pronounced Iran the gravest threat to the state of Israel, vowing to eliminate that threat.
He has also authored opinion pieces for Israel news outlets, granted interviews to Israeli reporters and reached out to Jewish leaders here, consistently describing Israel as a friend and stalwart ally.
Bill Clinton was the greatest friend Israel ever had. This is in contrast to George W. Bush who talked much but was weak to act.
As an American presidential candidate, George W. Bush repeatedly pledged his eternal love for and belief that a united Jerusalem should and will remain Israel's capital. He then proceeded, as president to refuse to move the US embassy to Jerusalem.
So much for US Republicans. Not much different these days from Democrats when it comes to placing the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
As one who has served in the Israel Defense Forces and the Israel Border Police, as one who has carried a gun in Israel since 1989, I understand my fellow Israelis fear. But they need to dig a bit deeper before characterizing one as a threat to Israel.
The efforts of the McCain campaign, and its supporters, to scare Jewish voters went way over the top, into something truly disgusting, if not racist. Some of the worst: a talk show host saying that Obama wants to "gas the Jews," as well as "Joe the (unlicensed) Plumber" agreeing with a supporter that an Obama presidency will be "death to Israel."
Besides the fact that these are wild accusations with no basis in fact, the use of the memory of the Holocaust as a political football is extremely offensive - particularly to those of us who have relatives who were victims or survivors.
A good reality check: the wholehearted endorsement of Obama by Edgar Bronfman, former World Jewish Congress president and Alan Dershowitz, the grandmaster of Israel's public defense against Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Jimmy Carter.
Dershowitz, who wrote the New York Times best seller "The Case for Israel" recently found himself defending a Democratic Obama administration to conservative Jews who argued that anyone who was worried about Israel should be for Republican John McCain.
Dershowitz reminded the audience that Israel had been willing to engage with Arab states, including Iran, and argued that Obama would be a better friend than McCain because of his ability to engage European Quartet members and, potentially, Arab leaders in the peace process.
Moreover, Dershowitz added, the results of today's election ultimately won't change American policy on Israel.
"Israel's fate will not turn on who is elected president, because we are one of the few countries in the world where Israel is not a divisive issue - not because of the Israel lobby, but because we all support Israel," Dershowitz said.
Yet the hecklers at a screening for "The Case for Israel" - a sold-out event hosted by the Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America - were clearly not in the target market. They arrived already convinced of Dershowitz's case for Israel, and many wanted to know how he could make his film and still be for Obama. This was perhaps unsurprising, given that the film was made partly with the help of American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who has been a lavish supporter of the Republican Party and the Republican Jewish Coalition this election year.
Dershowitz responded that it was time to acknowledge "the truth that many American Jews are way to the right of Israeli Jews," but said everyone should go ahead and "vote your conscience" - adding that it would be a tragedy if all Jews voted the same way and then found themselves on the losing side, with less ability to influence Washington debate.
As Barack Obama becomes the first Black US President in January, many Israelis will need to find a way to excuse themselves for voting against Obama as he travels to and from Israel. Perhaps one way to reduce their present fears, would be to remember the "Kissinger Effect" - that is how a partly Jewish Secretary of State Henry Kissenger had to compensate for his Jewishness by acting against Israel from time to time while serving under US President Richard Nixon.
It was Kissenger who basically ordered Israel not to preempt an attack on Egypt and Syria before the 1973 Yom Kippur war to "not appear as the aggressor." One hates to think of the many Israel soldiers who were slaughtered in the first hours and days of that war because Israel was forced to stand down, no preempt, no call up of IDF reserves.
As such, Obama would be forced to compensate for his Islamic name and past Islamic radical associations when caught between Israel and a Hamas or Hezbollah hard place, rock or missile.
The McCain campaign would have done well to have stopped treating the Jewish community as easily manipulated sheep. To have stopped pushing out the image that Obama, who in reality is an accomplished and respected US Senator and dedicated Christian, is a radical Muslim who would destroy Israel.
John McCain is a great man. A war hero. A true friend of Israel. But should Sarah Palin ever be forced to replace McCain, then we would all need to become truly Hassidic Jews. For only prayer would save us in that scenario.
The Israel News Agency wishes US President elect Barack Obama health, wisdom, courage and the strength to lead the United States and the Western democratic world in the fight against Islamic terrorism and for global prosperity.
As Richard Nixon, a staunch Conservative was able to make peace with Communist China, perhaps Barack Obama is in a position to create a true peace with the Islamic world.
Many of Israel's present and former IDF Generals support Barack Obama.
But Obama now needs all of our support and prayers.
We are on the same page.
And as a Black man, Barack Obama knows something about being discriminated against.