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Illinois Senate candidates argue who is more pro-Israel

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BY ABDON M. PALLASCH

Chicago Sun-Times Political Reporter


CHICAGO--Both major party candidates for U.S. Senate in Illinois say they are great friends of Israel.

Republican Mark Kirk and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias have been asked in recent public forums to criticize Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, and both have declined.

Representing the North Shore 10th Congressional District for the last 10 years, Kirk has won over many of the Jewish voters and donors there who ordinarily support Democrats.

That has been key to his repeated victories in the district, "And it will be key to our victory in November," Kirk said Monday.

Giannoulias says he's just as pro-Israel Kirk.

"Congressman Kirk has been great on Israel," Giannoulias said at a Town Hall at Ann Sathers restaurant last month. "If you look at my positions on Israel, we are essentially the exact same. I believe they are our strongest ally in the region. I believe in the safety and security of Israel, especially dealing with external threats like a nuclear-armed Iran. I think we need to continue to show our unwavering partnership with the only democracy in the region. I think Kirk and I agree on essentially every single element of that relationship."

But Kirk said Monday the difference between him and Giannoulias is Kirk's record of accomplishment.

"Many members vote on foreign policy and Israel-related issues but few actually lead -- I'm the only candidate with a proven record on this," Kirk said.

Speaking to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs Monday, Kirk outlined the bill he passed to try to choke off gasoline shipments into Iran to force the Iranian leadership's hand on Iran's nuclear program. Kirk said President Obama has signed that bill but has not yet put it to use.

In addition to the Iran sanctions bill, Kirk also pushed to get Israel integrated into the United States radar and satellite grid, he said.

"The difference is activism and leadership," Kirk said.

Kirk and Giannoulias have gotten questions about whether they are too pro-Israel.

"It sounds like you have no concerns whatsoever about Israel's grave record of human rights abuses against the Palestinian people," Katherine Metres, a wellness consultant, told Kirk at Monday's Global Affairs speech. Citing instances of innocent Palestinians allegedly being killed, imprisoned and their land confiscated by Israel authorities, she told Kirk, "I would love to hear what are you doing to speak out in support of those human rights activists, both Palestinian and Israeli, who are standing up against these abuses."

Kirk responded, "I think we should support human rights of people everywhere, including in Gaza and the West Bank, but the inherent problems in Gaza and the West Bank are the collapse of a unifying Palestinian Authority that could sign a peace agreement with Israel."

Giannoulias got a similar question at his town hall from a woman who said American officials should have criticized Israel for killing nine people on a "flotilla" of boats which supporters said brought food and medicine to Gaza in May.

"There was some disappointment that America was the only country that didn't say anything about the flotilla," the woman said. "Most of the world said this was wrong -- the killings on the boats."

Giannoulias backed the Israeli government: "I would make an argument that the flotilla wasn't there to provide basic needs -- they were there to provoke actions, which is exactly what it did."

Political consultant Don Rose said Kirk might get a higher percentage of the Jewish vote because of the friends he has won over on the North Shore in the last 10 years, "But that may not necessarily transfer to Lincoln Park Jews and Hyde Park Jews. If Giannoulias loses Jewish voters, it won't be for foreign policy reasons. It will be because they feel he's not 'kosher' in other ways."

4 Comments

"I'm more pro Israel", No! I'm more pro Israel"! Are you kidding me? What ever happened to morals and values? Screaming from the rooftops that you support and accept wholeheardtedly a country whose government thinks it is no big deal to kill innocent women and children after you have already bulldozed their homes and stolen their land. This is not about Israeli acceptance, it is about the votes that will get them into office. I would like to know what these men really think and not what they are forced to say publicly in order to win these votes. As far as Kirk's statement that "Palestinian Authority could sign a peace agreement with Israel" It just shows that he has no idea what he is talking about. Israel would never allow a peace agreement or two state solution. This whole political circus of unwavering support of Israel is laughable at best. Quite amusing though I must say.

This is what our political system has become. It's a travesty that these two thugs have so little regard for America and so concerned about a foreign country. They are both puppets who deserve not one single votes from Americans who are worried about our economy, jobs, wars and spending! Throw AIPAC out of Washington and cut all aid to Israel so our elected officials have our best interests at heart.

Time and time again we have seen and heard Ginnoulias support the cause of the day regradless of his real stance......he's a weasel.

Just say no to Alexi!

Whom are we going to vote ? Two clowns who prostrate before a foreign power with no regard to the intrest of the people of this country.They are for the money . Why are we sending all the money and arms , while we in this country are suffering.

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Lynn Sweet

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

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This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on August 10, 2010 8:46 AM.

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