Chicago Sun-Times
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Obama team steps up Jewish outreach; highlights strong support for Israel

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WASHINGTON -- As President Obama works the global precincts this week to avoid a United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood -- and as GOP presidential hopeful Rick Perry slammed Obama's record on Israel -- the Obama team kicked up its defense and outreach to the U.S. Jewish community.

On Tuesday afternoon, I have learned, the Obama team reached out to leaders and activists in the U.S. Jewish community in two conference calls: one organized by the Obama 2012 campaign, the second by the White House.

The campaign call was put together by Ira Forman, the Obama 2012 Jewish Outreach Director; featured Democratic National Committee Chairman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), and former Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), the president of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace.

On the White House call, Denis McDonough, deputy national security adviser, briefed on the intense Obama administration drive to avert a Palestinian showdown at the U.N. General Assembly meeting this week.

"What we are seeing is evidence that the campaign is now -- after a lot of talk -- putting into action efforts to address this constituency," a person on both calls told me.

It's not clear as I write this if the Palestinians have the votes to get rapid consideration of their U.N. membership request. It seems possible the Palestinian vote might be delayed. In any case, the U.S. has threatened to use its U.N. veto power if need be.

This confluence of policy and politics comes as polls show Obama's Jewish support is slipping. The U.S. Jewish community provided crucial support for Obama, in his 2004 Illinois Senate race and 2008 White House bid.Obama was able to get his 2008 presidential campaign off the ground only because of the early and major support of Jewish fund-raisers.

Perry traveled Tuesday to Manhattan to hit Obama on Israel, saying, "It is time to change our policy of appeasement toward the Palestinians." Mitt Romney, another 2012 GOP contender, accused Obama of throwing Israel under a bus.

Neither is right.

Perry and Romney have a disagreement on Obama's tactics and strategy. Israelis differ on how to deal with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. American Jews stand with Israel, and in the U.S. Jewish community there are deep differences over how to achieve a lasting Israeli-Palestinain peace.

The renewed outreach highlights Obama's strong actions to support Israel. Forman on his call unveiled a new website, "Jewish Americans for Obama" with a video featuring Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon--a former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.-- saying Israel "has never had a better friend than President Obama."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Obama for intervening when a mob recently attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo. Under Obama, Israel got the most ever in military aid -- $3 billion. Obama has been working to strengthen sanctions against Iran and his team has lobbied more than 100 nations at the U.N. to avoid a showdown vote.

Said Wexler, when we talked about Obama, "I judge him on his actions, his words and his deeds."

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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 September 21, 2011 6:54 AM.

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