MKs hail, or at least accept, Obama success

Edelstein: Now that Obama seems to have locked the Democratic nomination, he should play up support for Israel.

obama big smile 224,88 (photo credit: AP [file])
obama big smile 224,88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Following US Sen. Barack Obama's victory over Sen. Hillary Clinton early Wednesday morning, MKs from across the political spectrum warned not to discount the newly-crowned Democratic candidate as a potential supporter of Israel.
"We must remember that no American president will act in the way that we fear the most - no matter which candidate, Israel is important to American non-Jews," said MK Benny Elon (NU/NRP), the leader of the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus.
"It is dangerous, incorrect and unhealthy to begin to get into all kinds of unproductive comments against Obama or to preemptively launch an anti-Obama campaign," he added. "I think it's a great mistake to begin to make him into Muhammad or to talk about him being photographed as an Arab. It is incorrect hysteria."
Elon did, however, acknowledge that so far, Republican candidate John McCain's voting record was solidly more "positive."
"I have no doubt that with McCain life will be easier, but I have no doubt that Obama will also show friendship," he said.
Elon added that he felt that Israel notwithstanding, McCain could be a more mature, experienced leader for the United States.
"In terms of my world view, I think McCain is older and calmer, and I would be calmer if he was the leader of the free world. But not because of Obama's background," he said.
MK Yuli Edelstein (Likud) was a bit more skeptical toward Obama, saying he would need "to make a bigger effort to prove that he truly understands Israel's situation and security considerations."
Edelstein acknowledged that at first he had been skeptical of Obama's appeal to Democratic voters, writing him off as a "gimmick," but that he "stands corrected."
Edelstein said that now that Obama seems to have locked the Democratic nomination, he expected to see the candidate playing up his support for Israel, and possibly even including a visit to Israel amid his already-packed campaign schedule before the November elections.
"I want to say clearly that I have no doubt that either Obama or McCain will be good for Israel. I don't accept the argument that Obama is worse," said MK Avishai Braverman (Labor), who spent over a decade in the United States. "What is interesting and is different from Israel is that there is an element of change. That there are limited terms and new people like Obama can come in. This is part of America's strength - that people are willing to initiate change. America is great in its ability to renew itself."
MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) offered the most enthusiastic backing of the Democratic candidate.
"I think that Obama is an unusual candidate with a chance for a great change for the US in terms of their status in the Middle East. There hasn't been a candidate like this in years," he said. "I think his election will make America a cause that will allow America to reenter processes in the Middle East that it left in the last eight years. He returns the sense that the American dream can come true. He's not part of the usual elite that the leaders usually come from. Whoever speaks of the decline of America can't make a convincing argument in light of Obama's success."
Regarding Clinton, who began to mend bridges with her Wednesday address to the annual AIPAC conference, Elon recalled that Clinton had long ago proved her support for Israel, at least in his books. In the darkest years of the second intifada, when serving as Tourism Minister, he had spoken with the then-newly elected senator from New York, asking her to help jump-start the flagging tourism market.
Clinton, he said, had promised that she would do her best to set an example for her Jewish constituency, and within two months, she arrived in Jerusalem for the annual Presidents' Conference. In her speech, Elon recalled, Clinton "literally said, 'Follow me, don't be afraid.'"
Braverman also offered words of support for Obama's former rival, adding that in his defeat of Clinton, Obama had run a race against a worthy opponent.
"Hillary Clinton has great talents and ran a great battle. I am sure that she will find her place in the political sphere," he concluded.