Ex-defense officials 'recruited' by Jewish pro-Obama group
WASHINGTON - A Jewish political action committee that supports Barack Obama's bid for the American presidency has "recruited" former senior Israeli defense officials to the campaign by collating flattering statements about the Democratic senator from seven such officials into a new advertisement that will begin running today.
The ad was produced by the Jewish Council for Education and Research, which is already responsible for two other projects aimed at attracting Jewish voters to Obama, JewsVote.org and the Great Schlep. The new effort is meant to reassure Jews who fear that Obama's conciliatory approach to diplomacy will result in his being soft on terrorists, and hence bad for Israel.
The ad opens by declaring that men who have risked their lives for Israel will now explain their choice for the U.S. presidency. This is followed by quotes from the former officials, along with pictures of them during their service.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brom, for instance, declares that the Bush administration caused great harm to Israel's interests, and that Republican candidate John McCain would continue Bush's policies; hence Obama would be better for Israel.
Yossi Alpher, a former senior Mossad official, also asserts that McCain would continue Bush's failed policies. In contrast, he says, Obama's stated willingness to hold unconditional talks with Iran offers a fresh, exciting and potentially advantageous approach.
Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli declares that Obama is the best person to open a new page in relations with the Arab world and to help Israel reach peace agreements that would promote regional stability. The Bush administration's policies, he argues, merely strengthened the forces of radical Islam, including Palestinian groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
"I would personally vote for Obama to help the State of Israel," declares Brig. Gen. (res.) Giora Inbar, explaining that he believes the Bush administration's approach to the "Axis of Evil" has failed, and therefore, he welcomes someone willing to try a different approach.
Former Israel Defense Forces chief of staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak says that the Bush administration's Middle East efforts were "not professionally handled," and that Obama's speeches had convinced him of the candidate's support for Israel.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Amram Mitzna declares that another four years of treading water while America refrains from intensive involvement in Middle East peace efforts would be very bad for Israel, and that he believes that Obama would engage intensively in such efforts. The very fact that Obama is a new player "brings many hopes," he adds.
Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy says that 2009 will be the last possible moment for stopping Iran's nuclear program, and he thinks Obama could further this goal. Obama, he explains, is a "great communicator," and that is very important in politics.
Finally, the ad quotes Maj. Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan as saying he believes the next American president must talk with Iran - a statement that implies support for Obama, who also espouses this view, whereas McCain has explicitly rejected it.
However, it seems that some participants were unaware they were aiding an Obama campaign ad. Dayan, for instance, claimed yesterday that he had no idea he was appearing in the ad, that his words had been taken out of context, and that he neither supports nor opposes Obama, as he opposes any Israeli involvement in American politics.
"I never said I support Obama or his opinions," Dayan said. "They interviewed me in early July and said the interview would be devoted to questions of Middle East policy that would be on the new president's desk ... I don't know what I'm doing in a campaign video."
He added that he has asked the council to remove him from the clip and that he would consider his next moves after receiving its response.
Halevy also denied ever having expressed support for Obama. "I said he's a fresh, interesting personality and so forth, but I also said positive things about McCain," Halevy said. "I told them I thought it was inappropriate for an Israeli to express an opinion on who should be president of the U.S. I learned of this only today, and it angers me. I think it was an improper use of the interview with me, and I will demand that they correct it."