Who are you, Barack Obama?

After meeting him, I felt he was not entirely forthright with his thinking.

us special 2 224 (photo credit: )
us special 2 224
(photo credit: )
With the US quickly approaching the storm of election primaries that comes early February, only now as the race tightens are we beginning to get a better glimpse of the one candidate who has already captured the hearts and minds of millions of Americans - without us ever truly having the chance to know what he's really about. This candidate, of course, is Barack Obama. For months, media and public scrutiny of the young Illinois Senator has concentrated on his charm and endearing charisma while rarely hazarding to expose his policies or challenge his positions. Enamored by many Americans-young and old- for his campaign dedicated to change and unity, thus far he has largely evaded providing concrete answers as to what in fact he actually plans to change - or more fundamentally, how he would do so. Unity is a positive, uplifting concept, and one of harmony that strikes a chord for most Americans - but his speech is largely ambiguous, and lacks content regarding actual policies that would create this unity. In contrast to Obama, the other candidates in the electoral field from both parties are long-time public servants for whom every deed - and misdeed - has been repeatedly explored and dissected for the public eye. Mr. Obama is the only major candidate who has been able to ride out his campaign as the guy who came from almost nowhere, thus unencumbered by the need to defend any old policies or past decisions. From our perspective, as international spectators for whom Israeli and global security must be of foremost interest, while observing the American elections we should look at the Obama candidacy with some degree of concern as we hope to answer that all-important question, "Who really is this man, and what policies will he impose?" For America's policies, whether economic, social or foreign affairs-related, all affect the entire global community. On the two occasions that I met with the Senator, he proved himself as a polite, inquisitive and energetic politician. Yet, I was left with the impression that he was not entirely forthright with his thinking. Since early on in his campaign he has said that he would meet with the President of Iran - but we are left in the dark as to what agenda he would pursue on this issue. With the exception of promoting American divestment from Iran, an idea he adopted during a meeting with Bibi Netanyahu, Obama has largely avoided highlighting what specific demands he would make of Ahmadinijad and any timetables he would establish for the Iranians to dismantle their nuclear program. The threat of Islamic terrorism and the expanding scourge of fanaticism are also concepts which have been addressed by Obama in only the most ambiguous of terms. As far as Israel is concerned, Obama has yet to suggest specific measures he would enact regarding the Jewish State's Qualitative Military Edge that allows us to defend ourselves against our current and future enemies. Given the increasingly tense security environment Israel is confronting on all sides, now is not the time for American leaders to shy away from such fundamental questions. The four years ahead are far too critical for global security to place the presidency of the United States in the hands of a leader whose campaign is leaving us with more questions than answers. As the American people prepare to step into their primary ballot boxes, they should be demanding those answers and thus encourage Mr. Obama to show his own roadmap so voters can best evaluate what type of leader he would be. The writer is co-chairman of Nefesh B'Nefesh and a former ambassador of Israel to the United States