Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Sweet column: Inside story on Obama's Friday Israel speech.

| 20 Comments

For the first time since becoming a senator -- much less a White House hopeful -- Barack Obama on Friday will talk in depth about U.S. policy toward Israel and the Mideast.

The story behind the story of Obama's appearance before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee's regional forum at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers provides insight into the Obama presidential operation.

AIPAC, whose sole interest is U.S.-Israel relations, is one of the most influential lobbying groups in the nation. Its annual policy conference starts March 11 in Washington. The gathering provides fertile territory for Obama to schmooze with well-connected backers and donors. Though no 2008 presidential candidates are on the program, Obama is hosting a reception for AIPAC members -- as is archrival Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton delivered a well-received speech before an AIPAC regional meeting in New York on Feb. 1. The Obama team wanted to get Obama's pro-Israel views -- not well-known -- out front before the big AIPAC conference. Obama's team has put together a briefing sheet on his record about Israel, but that was not widely circulated and clearly not enough. If he was to make a major speech on Israel, there was an interest among Obama's Chicago backers for him to deliver it in the city.

The Chicago/Midwest AIPAC office obliged and booked Friday's foreign policy forum featuring Obama, not unlike how the Chicago Council on Global Affairs arranged an event for Obama when he wanted to deliver a major Iraq speech last November.

Meanwhile, Obama's speech started taking shape with input from Mark Lippert, Obama's Senate foreign policy adviser, and Dan Shapiro, a Middle East specialist, now a lobbyist, who is an Obama campaign foreign policy adviser. Shapiro recently was a deputy chief of staff for Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and handled international affairs for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). He also served on the National Security Council under former President Bill Clinton.

One of the most important concerns for Israel is to ensure that Iran does not get nuclear capability.

Obama, in his speech, will detail his vision for Israel and the Mideast and expand his views on regional engagement. Last November, in his Iraq address, Obama, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called for an "opening dialogue" with Iran and Syria. "Make no mistake," Obama said then, "if the Iranians and Syrians think they can use Iraq as another Afghanistan or a staging area from which to attack Israel or other countries, they are badly mistaken."

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States, in a switch, will hold talks with the two nations.

Obama on Friday will call for tougher Iran sanctions, more bilateral diplomacy and declare he is for leaving all military options on the table. He will underscore the need for energy independence so that U.S. Mideast policy is not anchored to the country's huge appetite for fossil fuels.

Obama traveled to Israel for the first time in January 2006. He allotted time on his official trip to visit projects sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Chicago and the Chicago Catholic Archdiocese.

Obama's camp is well-aware that the Israeli newspaper Haaretz -- in a recurring feature ranking the 2008 U.S. presidential candidates or people who may run on how good they are for Israel -- puts him last on its list. Former GOP New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani tops its ranking, followed by Newt Gingrich, John McCain, Clinton, Al Gore, Sam Brownback and the others, with Obama at the end. Part of the reason for the low score may be that the others have worked the Israeli street for years and Obama is just an unknown factor when it comes to Israel.

But let me share something. Last August, Obama was in Cape Town, South Africa, at a time when Israel was being criticized for overreacting for its military attacks in Lebanon in response to the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers. Obama was speaking to a group at a cultural institution called The Center for the Book, which provided a friendly venue for the Illinois Democratic. The crowd, clearly hostile to Israel, expected Obama to bash Israel on Lebanon. He did not. They were surprised.

They just did not know Obama well enough to realize who they were dealing with.


© Copyright 2007 Sun-Times News Group | User Agreement and Privacy Policy

20 Comments

'Obama on Friday will call for tougher Iran sanctions, more bilateral diplomacy and declare he is for leaving ***all military options*** on the table.'

Does this mean that Sen Obama, like Sen Clinton, is willing to drop a nuclear bomb on the people of Iraq if their rulers don't abandon their nuclear program?

I presume the above-commenter meant Iran.

I support Israel, heck I'd even take action against Iran if we can't get the world/UN to take some sort of meaningful sanction-type action.

But Lynn, are you losing some objectivity here? There's a difference between access and advocacy. I'm particularly referring to the end of today's story -- it reads like "let me tell you Jews and pro-Israel Christians something: Obama wouldn't slam Israel in a hostile forum." Well, ok, but this sounds like someone who knows they are voting Obama and trying to persuade others. Plus, when it comes to Israel a lot is said in the nuance. If Obama said "of course I'm against disproportionate force" right there he'd have lost a lot of Israel supporters.

How sad that our choices at this time are between Rudy, Hillary, and Obama. I am not interested in these voices. They do not represent my views. The first step towards an improved U.S. policy is a withdrawl of our troops in Iraq, an expansion of services to veterans here at home, health care vouchers for those who lack the ability to pay, and a restoration of trust in the electoral system in America. Iraq was a great blunder mis-calculated by private interests. Now we are supposed to give up our dreams of a nation at peace with it's self in favor of the dreams of a few misguided individuals. If it's time for a change, then it's time for a few good candidates to stand up for values that begin with a respect for life on this planet.

Meet the new boss...SAME as the old boss.

I can't wait to rub it in all the Obamaniacs when he turns out to be the same old politician that their liberal butts despise.

He may be pretty, but he sure is dangerous. More so than you could ever imagine.

www.ReyFloresAmerica.blogspot.com

"AIPAC is one of the most influential lobby organizations in the country." Perhaps this explains why we, the U.S. are still in Iraq, and are likely to go into Iran and Syria before leaving the mideast. "The clean break" stragey, (google "A clean break") currently employed by the neo-cons in the executive branch, has been a complete and utter failure. Anytime one hears the words "they (insert muslim country) are a threat to their neighbors" we should interpret that as "a threat to Isreal." We U.S. taxpayers give Isreal BILLIONS every year in foreign aid - and 40 million americans go without health insurance!

AIPAC members have been indicted for spying in and leaking classified information from the U.S. and presidential hopefuls from both major parties can't work hard enough to prove they are more pro-isreal than the other guy. I dont know if this is pandering to the religious christian base who want the apocolypse to arrive or AIPAC money (likely both). U.S. cluster bombs are today, and will be for a long time into the future, maiming and killing children in Lebanon since Isreal decided to carpet bomb this territory in the waning days of last summer's war, leaving MILLIONS of unexploded bomblets in areas inhabited by civilians, and children. And the great and thoughtful Sen Obama has to work hard to get himself off the bottom of the coveted "best for Isreal" list. Pardon me while i puke.

To be clear, I am not anti-semitic nor anti-Isreal. I am simply pro-American. I think our current relationship with Isreal is one-sided, favoring Isreal and they are taking advantage of that, along with taking billions of dollars that could be used here at home. I think it is about time that AIPAC, especially those within AIPAC who have dual-citizenship with Isreal and who work in our government, to declare themselves as working for a foreign state, since it is undisputed that there main goal is to support and help Isreal to whatever detriment is suffered by the U.S. They might as well be Isreali agents (as we have seen some are) Working in the pentagon no less. What a farse.

Oh, and before the politically correct police come and call me a nazi or whatever, one can be anti-isreal (isreal generally, as a state actor) and not be anti-semitic. I don't like the Chinese government, but this says nothing about how i feel about the average chinese person. Likewise, I don't like the Isreali government, but this says nothing about how i feel about isreali citizens or even Jewish people here in the U.S.

~disgruntled~

Supporting Israel is supporting state terror, which is what destabilizes the Mideast in the first place. The "West's" involvement in the region is characterized by failed policy and support of drastic militarization. How does this promote peace? Moreover, people ask the question "Why do they hate us?" They don't hate us because of who we are, as others will have you believe, but because of what we do. To promote peace in the Mideast, a candidate is needed that will do more than just bow to the dollars and repeat what all other candidates are saying. It seems that neither Obama and the democrats nor the republicans have peace in mind. Guns and bombs will not solve the problem...

The US populous has had it with blindly supporting Israel. By 2008 voters will have equipped themselves with nothing less than X-ray vision to see who is behind the AIPAC fog. And they will ditch any candidate who promises more US blood for the zionist aim. Just watch Hillary.

What a bunch of mopes. You know what? All options are always on the table. Really.

Read Barak Obama's speech before Iraq, and then tell me he is more of the same.

"...one can be anti-isreal (isreal generally, as a state actor) and not be anti-semitic."

Whatever!! Tell me another one!

Did anyone see the report on Hannity & Colmes last night where it exposed the black separatists stance that Obama's church believes in?

First "Isreal" (sic) is spelled Israel. Second, Israel is the only democracy in the volatile Middle East and along this line, roughly 15% of the Israel Knesset (their parliament) are Israeli Arabs. 3rd, with all of her foibles, Israel is the closest friend we (USA) have in this volatile region. Israel, has always stived to live in peace with her neighboring countries while many of them repeatedly advocate for destruction of Israel and even teach their children to do the same. Obama is a realist who is not blinded by a fanatic Muslim agenda to eliminate all Jews and other religions from this region. To bad I cannot say the same for my some of my fellow Americans on this blog.

To Steve,
Israel is NOT a democracy. It is NOT a democracy.
It is a JEWISH STATE, which means that Arabs really do not have voice.
And how many people have been caught spying on America on behalf of Israel?
Pollard? the AIPAC spying? I am tired of how 1 lobby can have so much power in this country~

If Israel has nukes why shouldn't their neighbors have them as well?
If the middle0east is to be nuje free, shouldn't we start by having all nations disarm themselves?

How much hypocrisy can the world take?
The ONLY nation to ever bomb civilians with nukes is trying to tell the neighboring nation of the ONLY nuclear armed middle eastern nation tostop developing nukes.

don't call me anti-semitic, cause I'm jewish just not a zionist

Israel is not the only democracy. Palestine and Lebanon are also democratic countries. Also, unlike Israel they do not have compulsory millitary service.

JERRY SAID: "First "Isreal" (sic) is spelled Israel. Second, Israel is the only democracy in the volatile Middle East and along this line, roughly 15% of the Israel Knesset (their parliament) are Israeli Arabs. 3rd, with all of her foibles, Israel is the closest friend we (USA) have in this volatile region. Israel, has always stived to live in peace with her neighboring countries while many of them repeatedly advocate for destruction of Israel and even teach their children to do the same. Obama is a realist who is not blinded by a fanatic Muslim agenda to eliminate all Jews and other religions from this region. To bad I cannot say the same for my some of my fellow Americans on this blog."

What a pack of lies. Israel a democracy. Laughable. Israel, OUR friend. What has Israel done for US? WE are ISRAEL'S friend. How many more billions in aid and military expenditure need we pour into that pathetic excuse for a county and its wars before we realize we're being bled dry, both financially and in terms of the thousands of Americans either killed or coming home without limbs, without faces, without parts of their brains.

Israel, striving to live in peace with its neighbors. Ludicrous. Do you think perhaps Muslims teach their children to destroy Israel because Israel teaches its own that their neighbors are sub-human? Do you think perhaps Muslims want to eliminate Jews from the region because Jews have been systematically attempting to eliminate THEM since they received statehood? And just who do you think has been more successful? Take a good look at a map of the region from back then and from right now and tell me WHO is wiping out WHO.

Obama is a realist, alright. He knows that it's either suck up to Israel and AIPAC or he'll suffer the consequences. Wake up to the lies, people. America is being used for everything she's got, from money to blood, and the vast majority of our politicians are merely Zionist tools.

Ms. Sweet,

Of course Mr. Hewitt is correct, I typo'd the "Q". Should have know better than to post from a mobile.

-- SCAM

Wow, I just went to Obama's website for some "inspiration" and I see this article featured. I am a cautious supporter- keeping the faith that Obama can be different, that he has seen and experienced the world, that he has a sense of what it means to be dispossessed and live injustice, given his civil rights work. But there he is pandering to AIPAC, the pro-Israeli Jewish vote, just like the others. Makes it very difficult to put my full-hearted faith in this campaign as much as I would want to. It's really too bad basic notions of justice and fairness to which so many Americans and our candidates claim to ascribe can be completely disregarded because of the money and power of the pro-Israeli lobby. What a shame that that a politician who advocates an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can kiss his prospects for higher office goodbye and there is not even any real public discussion or consciousness about this. What a travesty.

Ms. Sweet:

You pretty much summarized by saying: in South Africa "The crowd, clearly hostile to Israel, expected Obama to bash Israel on Lebanon. He did not. They were surprised. They just did not know Obama well enough to realize who they were dealing with.”

What we are dealing with is (Obama) another Israeli puppy, being fed by some fanatic American Jews, who will help continue to drain American blood, lives and resources to support Israeli wrong doings and continue to bring grief to the entire world including Palestinians and Americans.

I will like to see some American politician with balls who can announce that the nuclear weapons are undesirable and, therefore, we are going to destroy our nuclear arsenal and yes, first of all let’s clean up Israel before we talk about Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Jewish (Israeli) lives are no more important than any other human beings.

Sadly, Obama's and other politicians' stance as well as many politically motivated lobby groups would not only undermine Arabs in the middle east, but also Israelis and Jews who are working for justice and peace so they can co-exist peacefully in the region.

The word says, "He who lives by the sword dies by the sword". Is it any wonder that all those who carry swords will meet their end at the point of a sword? This statement is an oversimplification of the reality of the world today. The fact is, we humans are as culturally primitive as cavemen. No one can claim class superiority as some might attempt. Technology is not a substitute for high level mental advancement. Real mental development in humanity is the ability to coexist in relative harmony. So far, we have failed the test.

The simple truth is that in time, nations in the middle east other than Israel will pocess nuclear weapons or other WMDs. Nothing can stop this reality. In the end, this region will self destruct. Israel and neighbouring lands will lay waste in a molten state of decay for hundreds of years. Now is the time to stop, think and act sensibly or perish.

This seems to explain why greenspan was replaced by bernanke with out so much as a by your leave for anyone else to get a look in at one of the most powerful offices in the us.
What folly this is, all that events of 60 years ago should lead to this is remarkable, though probably not what americans would have belived when they let this particular refugee into the nation.
American politicans bought like some banana republic.
how appropos though not with out precedent

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on March 1, 2007 7:15 AM.

Sweet blog special: Update on the Obama breakfast with House Dems. was the previous entry in this blog.

Sweet blog special: McCain steps in Iraq deaths "wasted" whirlpool. Obama, been there himself, on McCain slipup. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.