(photo credit: Illinois General Assembly )
US President Barack Obama has made a mistake by not visiting Israel since his
election and he must come soon to better comprehend the realities faced by the
Jewish state, Obama’s former Illinois state senate colleague Ira Silverstein
told The Jerusalem Post in the capital on Sunday.
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Silverstein came to
Israel as part of a delegation from Illinois led by the state’s governor, Pat
Quinn, that was organized by the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan
Currently the Illinois Senate’s majority caucus whip,
Silverstein worked closely with Obama when they were in the Senate together from
1999 to 2004.
Obama was known at the time for helping Silverstein, who is
an Orthodox Jew, keep Shabbat, but Silverstein prefers to not use the term
During their walks together in the Illinois capital
Springfield, Silverstein and Obama had frank discussions about the importance of
the US-Israel relationship.
“I thought he got it back then,” Silverstein
said. “I don’t know if he doesn’t get it now.
I am not an expert on
foreign affairs, but I don’t think he understands the dimensions of what’s going
on in the Middle East.”
Silverstein said he was troubled that Obama had
not visited Israel since his election in November 2008, while he has gone to
Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Obama did visit four months before he was
elected president, and the JUF took him to Israel when he was a US senator in
“He might get a rocky reception here, but it could help his
credibility out,” Silverstein said.
“He should see the territories he
wants negotiated. He’s got to spend some time here.”
the body language between Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in their
May 20 meeting in Washington “chilling” and said it affected attitudes of US
Jews toward the president. He complained that Obama did not balance out his call
for Israel to return to pre- 1967 borders with land swaps in his May 19 State
Department speech by insisting that the Arab world recognize Israel’s right to
“President Obama’s remarks are truly disheartening,” Silverstein
said in a press release following the speech. “I have truly supported President
Obama, including campaigning for him in Illinois, Ohio and other states. I have
helped to spread his message of hope and change.
“I believe now the
president will lose the support of Jewish voters across the
Silverstein denied comparisons between the corruption in Israeli
politics to that of Illinois, whose two previous governors, Rod Blagojevich and
George Ryan, were both convicted, and Obama’s vacant Senate seat was allegedly
“Politics are the same all over with egos and self-interest,”
Silverstein said. “Politics in Chicago have gotten much better.
bad apples. With one governor in jail, and one just convicted, we’re still
tainted in Illinois, but hopefully things will change.”