Top Israeli defense officials star in pro-Obama ad
JERC downplays concern officials endorsed candidate against their will; Obama campaign promises not to cut Israel aid.
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 on Monday.
However it seemed some of the participants - including former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy and Brigadier General (res.) Uzi Dayan - were unaware they were aiding an Obama campaign ad.
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.
JCER Co-Executive Director Mik Moore downplayed concerns that the defense officials were being used to endorse the candidate against their will.
"The purpose of the film is to educate Jewish voters aboutsupport within Israel's security establishment for policies Obama hasadvanced regarding Israel," said Moore.
"The Israeli producers have assured us that all participants were fully informed ofthe nature of the project. While JCER has endorsed Barack Obama forPresident, neither the film, nor any of our subsequent remarks imply that those interviewed are endorsing Obama's candidacy," he added.
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.
"Eight years of the Bush regime that according to the accepted criteria was supportive of Israel, the most friendly president in the history of Israeli-American relations, in my opinion caused major damage to the interests of Israel," said Brigadier General (res.) Shlomo Brom.
"Most probably, Barack Obama will be a better president for Israel than Mr. McCain, because it seems that the policies of Mr. McCain will be too close to the current policies of Mr. Bush, that are not so helpful to Israel, to say the least," he said.
Former Mossad Senior Officer Yossi Alpher said: "McCain, one has to presume, on the basis of what I've heard him say, will more or less maintain the same pose that the Bush administration has adopted, which has failed."
"The Bush Doctrine has created the current situation where the fundamentalist Islamic forces are getting stronger, as well as the radical forces of Hamas, and the Islamic Jihadists," said Brigadier General (res.) Shaul Arieli.
"I would say that an American president, in my personal opinion, needs actually to be engaged with Iran," said Dayan, Likud Knesset candidate and nephew of the famed general Moshe Dayan.
"You can't not talk to the Iranians and then one day attack them. I'm not saying give in to them, because ultimately, you need to stop Iran from reaching nuclear capability."
"I think that Obama is a breath of fresh air," said Ephraim Halevy.
"Given their intimate understanding of Israel's security situation, these widely respected officials and officers speak with great authority," said Moore. "We will do our best to make sure that anyone voting in this election that cares about Israel's future sees this film before November 4."
Some of participants, apparently were unaware they were aiding a campaign ad. Dayan, for instance, claimed on Sunday 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.
Spokesman: Obama committed to increasing aid by $30 billion
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama has promised not to cut foreign aid to Israel if he is elected in November, a spokeswoman for Obama has said.
In a statement to the Israeli business daily Globes, a spokeswoman for Obama said he would honor existing agreements pertaining to foreign aid and as such was committed to "increasing aid to Israel to $30 billion over 10 years."
In the vice presidential debate last week, Obama's running mate Senator Joe Biden said their administration would have to hold back on plans to double foreign aid in general in light of the financial crisis in the U.S.
Israel is estimated to receive over $2.5 billion each year in foreign aid from the U.S., in addition to other grants for projects, such as joint military research and development.