Democratic US presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday pledged to uphold US support for Israel, rebuffing his Republican rival John McCain's claim that he was the preferred choice of Hamas. "You will not see, under my presidency, any slackening in commitment to Israel's security," Obama told The Atlantic magazine online. "My position on Hamas is indistinguishable from the position of Hillary Clinton or John McCain. I said they are a terrorist organization and I've repeatedly condemned them," he continued. "I mean what I say: since they are a terrorist organization, we should not be dealing with them until they recognize Israel, renounce terrorism," Obama said. McCain has reiterated the claim that Hamas supports Obama, while portraying himself as a future president who would be tougher on terror groups. McCain's campaign cited an April 13 quote from Hamas aide Ahmed Yousef who reportedly said: "We like Mr. Obama. We hope he will (win) the election." Obama said that parts of his childhood he spent outside the United States would stand him in good stead. "It's conceivable that there are those in the Arab world who say to themselves, 'This is a guy who spent some time in the Muslim world, has a middle name of Hussein, and appears more worldly and has called for talks with people, and so he's not going to be engaging in the same sort of cowboy diplomacy as George Bush,' and that's something they're hopeful about. "I think that's a perfectly legitimate perception as long as they're not confused about my unyielding support for Israel's security." Obama emphasized that he had clarified his stance during a meeting with Palestinian students in Ramallah. "One of the things that I said to those students was: 'Look, I am sympathetic to you and the need for you guys to have a country that can function, but understand this: If you're waiting for America to distance itself from Israel, you are delusional. "Because my commitment, our commitment, to Israel's security is non-negotiable." Senator Obama offered a glimpse of his own personal feelings about Israel by saying that "there is something so powerful and compelling for me [about the idea of Israel], maybe because I was a kid who never entirely felt like he was rooted." "My starting point when I think about the Middle East is this enormous emotional attachment and sympathy for Israel, mindful of its history, mindful of the hardship and pain and suffering that the Jewish people have undergone, " Obama continued, "obviously it's something that has great resonance with the African-American experience." When questioned about the justice of the Zionist idea Obama stated "the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world."
For the text of Jeffrey Goldberg's interview of Obama click here