Rightist MK: Israel should be wary of Barack Obama
Eldad: U.S. President elect will buy Arabs' favor with Israeli currency, Iraq withdrawal will endanger Israel.
Though Democrat Barack Obama's election on Tuesday as the 44th president of the United States was welcomed by Palestinian and Israeli politicians alike, some in Israel's political system expressed apprehension.
National Union MK Aryeh Eldad said Wednesday that Israel should be wary of Obama, because "he is prone to buying the Arabs' favors with Israeli currency."
Eldad said that the American president-elect intends to pull his country's forces out of Iraq, a move that will endanger Israel gravely.
His fellow right-winger Zvi Hendel (National Union) said, however, that "Israel's strategic dangers will not come from the American president, no matter what his name is, but from the leader elected in Israel."
Earlier Wednesday, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel hoped the president-elect would maintain the U.S. friendship with Israel and commitment to peace talks.
"Israel expects the close strategic cooperation with the new administration, president and Congress will continue along with the continued strengthening of the special and unshakeable special relationship between the two countries," she said.
In a statement, she called the Obama's election "a mark of merit for American democracy."
"During Barack Obama's recent visit to Israel, and especially during the tour we conducted together in the city of Sderot, the people of Israel were impressed by his commitment to the peace and security of Israel," Livni said.
Livni also expressed her esteem for the honorable campaign conducted by Senator John McCain. "We thank Senator McCain for his long-standing friendship and look forward to continuing our close cooperation with him."
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said he hoped that Obama would lead the U.S. along its current path of involvement in the Middle East peace talks, and bring forward the settlement President George W. Bush had vowed to see before the end of his term.
"We hope the president-elect in the United States will stay the course and would continue the U.S. engagement in the peace process without delay. We hope the two-state vision would be transferred from a vision to a realistic track immediately," said Erekat, an aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
In Israel, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert praised Obama's victory as "historic and impressive. America has again proven itself an example to world democracies."
Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu said Obama's victory represented an historic change for America, adding: "I am sure the new president will be able to bring peace to our region," he said.
MK Ophir Pines-Paz said Obama must involve himself with the peace process immediately at the start of his term. He also said, "the political system in Israel can look with astonishment and jealous at democracy in the United States. Obama's victory gives hope to billions in the world, as well as in Israel.
Other Israeli lawmakers praised Obama's election as a victory against racism. MK Shlomo Moula (Kadima), an Ethiopian immigrant to Israel, said: "This is a victory that arouses hope in all black people in the world and in Israel. I am full of hope that Israel won't wait 400 years for equality."
Israeli Arab MK Ahmed Tibi called Obama's victory a "defeat of racism... the American people have proven their grandness and have headed out on the dawn of a new day and a new world. We must always remember, 'only in the darkness can one see the stars."
MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) said that Obama has already proven his "friendship to Israel... and his uncompromising commitment to curbing Iran's nuclear program."
At celebratory reception at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem Tuesday night, U.S. Ambassador James Cunningham said he could vouch Obama's support of Israel, for the advancement of the peace process and for Israel's security.