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February 07, 2008 - Image 27

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-02-07

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First installment of commentaries in support of the active candidates.

Obama: A Friend Of Israel

Robert Wexler

Special Commentary

Delray Beach, Fla./JTA


arely do Americans have the
chance to vote for a truly trans-
formational leader as our next
president, but this year we do: Sen. Barack
There are many reasons why I support
Obama for president. He offers an opportu-
nity to end the divisive politics of the past
and reconnect Americans to the political
process by bringing all
voices to the table on
contentious issues and
working out common-
sense solutions. He is
committed to making
sure every American has
access to quality health
care and to ending our
Barack Obama
dependence on foreign
oil, and he has a proven
ability to develop bipartisan coalitions to
achieve his goals. He had the judgment to
oppose the Iraq war from the beginning
— and he has a sound plan to end it.
But as a Jewish member of Congress
who is passionate about strengthening and
protecting America's historic relationship
with our ally Israel, I could not support

Obama if I were not completely convinced
of his own commitment to supporting
Israel. In fact, my long conversations with
Obama about his travels in Israel and his
views on the importance of the American-
Israeli alliance factored greatly in my deci-
sion to support him.
As a legislator in Illinois and now as a
United States senator, Obama has been
an ironclad supporter of the U.S.-Israel
relationship and repeatedly has been at the
forefront ensuring Israel's security in the
face of Palestinian terrorism, Hezbollah
rocket attacks, threats from Syria and a
burgeoning Iranian nuclear threat. Obama
emphatically stated while giving a March
2007 speech to American Israel Public
Affairs Committee members in Chicago
that he has a "clear and strong commit-
ment to the security of Israel, our strongest
ally in the region and its only established
Obama has been vocal in condemning
Hamas and Islamic Jihad rocket attacks
into the southern Israeli city of Sderot and
stood shoulder to shoulder with Israelis in
2006 during Israel's war with Hezbollah.
"When Israel is attacked',' he said, "we
must stand up for Israel's right to defend
But like the vast majority of the
American Jewish community, Obama
believes that a comprehensive settle-
ment — including Israel and a peaceful

Palestinian state living side by side — is
the best way to ensure Israel's security
and guarantee that Israel will always be a
Jewish state. He commended Israeli Prime
Minister Ehud OLmert and Palestinian
Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for
coming to Annapolis to launch a renewed
effort to negotiate peace. As president,
Obama will make a personal commitment
and a sustained effort to help the parties
succeed in their negotiations.
He has no illusions about the difficulty
of resolving the core issues of the con-
flict. For example, he has stated clearly
that the Palestinians must "reinterpret
the notion of right of return in a way that
would preserve Israel as a Jewish state."
Nor does he underestimate the determi-
nation of rejectionists like Hamas, whom
he believes must remain isolated until
it renounces violence, recognizes Israel
and abides by all agreements signed by
the Palestinian Authority. But he will not
be deterred, and he will make resolving
this conflict an important priority of his
foreign policy.
No one has been more resolute than
Obama in addressing the most serious
security threat facing the United States and
Israel — a nuclear Iran. He has stated, "the
world must work to stop Iran's uranium
enrichment program and prevent Iran
from acquiring weapons.
Obama has led efforts in the Senate to

ratchet up economic pressure on Iran by
introducing the Iran Sanctions Enabling
Act of 2007. It aims to change Iran's
destructive behavior by denying President
Ahmadinejad and his regime billions of
dollars in oil and gas revenues that are
used to fuel Tehran's nuclear program and
global terror network.
The American Jewish community could
not have a better friend and supporter in
Washington than Obama. That is why it
was deeply disturbing to read the prolif-
eration of e-mails personally attacking
Obama, questioning his religious beliefs as
well as his support for Israel.
I stand with the leadership of nine
major American Jewish organizations,
including the Anti-Defamation League
and the American Jewish Committee, who
issued a statement on Jan. 15 rejecting
"hateful e-mails that use falsehood and
innuendo to mischaracterize Sen. Barack
Obama's religious beliefs and who he is as
a person."
His candidacy is especially compelling
because it represents a historic opportu-
nity to elect an inspirational figure who is
capable of repairing America's image glob-
ally and addressing the challenges facing
the United States. ❑

Robert Wexler, a member of the U.S. House of

Representatives from Florida, is chairman of

Barack Obama's Florida campaign.

Romney: Refreshing, inspiring

Mel Sembler

Special Commentary

St. Petersburg, Fla./JTA


n Jan. 20,2007, I had the great
pleasure of accompanying Gov.
Mitt Romney on his most recent
trip to Israel. Romney met with key, senior
Israeli economic, political and military
officials in order to assess the unique chal-
lenges facing America's closest ally in the
The time I spent with Mitt in Israel
allowed me to see firsthand his pragmatic
approach to problem solving coupled
with his tireless motivation. I found the
combination refreshing and inspiring. His
respect for differing points of view and
ways of life is compassion at its best. Now,
more than ever, I think we need this kind
of leadership for America.
With a leadership style developed over
decades in the private sector, Romney has

been successful throughout his career. To
succeed in the business world, companies
must change, challenge assumptions and
innovate constantly.
As the CEO of Bain Capital, Romney
invested in more than 150
companies like Domino's Pizza,
Staples and Sports Authority, and
helped develop business plans
to run these enterprises suc-
cessfully. Two decades later, Bain
Capital is among the nation's five
largest private equity firms.
At the peak of his business
career, Mitt was asked to take
over the 2002 Winter Olympics
in Salt Lake City. At that time, the
Olympics were beset by scandal and had
fallen deeply into debt. Mitt took over and,
as he had done with so many companies,
he went to work turning things around.
The result was one of the most successful
and profitable Olympics in history, even
in the face of security concerns following


Following the Olympics, Mitt brought
needed leadership to Massachusetts. I
have long been impressed by what he
accomplished during his term as gover-
nor — strengthening education,
laying the foundation for private,
market-based health insurance for
all and cutting the size and cost of
government. Without raising taxes
or increasing debt, Romney closed
a nearly $3 billion deficit. Each year,
he filed a balanced budget without
raising taxes.
By eliminating waste, stream-
lining government and enacting
comprehensive economic reforms
to stimulate growth in Massachusetts,
Romney got the economy moving again
and transformed deficits into surpluses.
As president, Mitt will govern by empha-
sizing his core principles: faith in free
enterprise and free trade, accountability in
education, personal responsibility, toler-

ance, strong families and a strong national
defense. Our country faces what could be
a defining moment in shaping its history,
and I believe Romney can provide the kind
of leadership that is sorely needed.
Americans are losing faith in
Washington and the ability of our elected
officials to tackle the new generation of
challenges facing the American people.
America needs a proven leader and execu-
tive like Romney, not another lifetime
politician who has never run a corner
store, let alone the largest enterprise in the
I am confident that millions of
Americans will conclude, as I have, that
America and its allies deserve nothing less
than Mitt Romney as the next president of
the United States. ❑

Mel Sembler, national finance co-chair of

Romney for President, is former U.S. ambas-
sador to Italy and former honorary chair of the
Republican Jewish Coalition.

February 7 • 2008


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