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Obama Backs Off Another Campaign Pledge

By Jack Kelly

The half life of a Barack Obama campaign pledge is getting shorter.

Last Wednesday, Sen. Obama spoke before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Though the group is predominantly Democratic, Sen. Obama wanted to reassure it, because many AIPAC members know he has chosen as his foreign policy advisers and spiritual mentors people who have said unkind things about Israel and Jews.

For instance, Robert Malley resigned from the campaign last month after it was disclosed he'd been negotiating with the Palestinian terror group Hamas. Daniel Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Egypt and Israel, blames the Israelis for "the radicalization of those Palestinians to violence." Former Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill McPeak and former Carter National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski had blamed U.S. Jews for blocking Mideast peace. And then there's the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Reassure them he did. "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided," Sen. Obama told AIPAC.

The next day, after receiving criticism from, among others, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Sen. Obama's campaign issued a "clarification."

Obama "did not rule out Palestinian sovereignty over parts of Jerusalem when he called for Israel's capital to remain 'undivided,'" an aide told the Jerusalem Post.

This was a good backtrack. The United States and most other nations do not recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital (the embassies are in Tel Aviv) precisely because the final status of Jerusalem is the subject of negotiation between the Israelis and the Palestinians in pursuit of a final peace settlement.

But the "clarification" illustrated two of Sen. Obama's tendencies which happen often enough to be described as characteristic. The first is ignorance of an important foreign policy issue. The second is reluctance to admit error when a mistake has been made.

The issue of greatest concern to the members of AIPAC is what to do about Iran, since Iran is on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has pledged to wipe Israel off the map.
In language that could have been used by Sen. John McCain, Sen. Obama told AIPAC's members he shared their concern:

"The Iranian regime supports violent extremists and challenges us across the region,' he said. "It pursues a nuclear capability that could spark a dangerous arms race, and raises the prospect of a transfer of nuclear know-how to terrorists. It's president denies the Holocaust and threatens to wipe Israel off the map. The danger from Iran is grave, it is real, and my goal will be to eliminate this threat."

But just 17 days before, Sen. Obama told an audience in Oregon that Iran (and Cuba and Venezuela) "don't pose a serious threat to the U.S."

Sen. Obama told AIPAC the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps should be designated a terrorist organization. On Sep. 26 of last year, the Senate passed, 76-22, a resolution sponsored by Arizona Sen. John Kyl and Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman urging that the State Department take this step. Sen. Obama wasn't present for the vote, but issued a statement at the time saying that if he had been, he'd have voted against it. He called it then "saber rattling," and "a blank check for war."

Sen. Obama told AIPAC that "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. This would help Israel maintain its military edge and deter and repel attacks from as far as Tehran and as close as Gaza."

In remarks a few months earlier to Caucus4Priorities, a left wing pacifist group, Sen Obama had said: "I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems."

In the YouTube Democratic presidential debate last year, Sen. Obama famously pledged to meet, without preconditions, Iranian President Ahmadinejad and other U.S. enemies.

That pledge underwent significant modification in his AIPAC address. Sen. Obama told AIPAC he'd be willing to sit down with the Iranians, but only after careful preparation, and only if the national interest would be served by it.
In short, Sen. Obama at AIPAC was significantly more hawkish than he was earlier on the campaign trail. Has he changed his world view? Or is he just changing his spots in pursuit of votes?

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