Once again, a furor surrounding US Presidential candidate Barack Obama has erupted, this time over a senior military advisor to the Obama campaign with a history of anti-Israel remarks. He has strongly criticized pro-Israel Jews in the United States for allegedly torpedoing peace efforts in the Middle East.
In a 2003 interview with The Oregonian newspaper unearthed by The American Spectator magazine, General Merrill "Tony" McPeak, a former chief of staff in the United States Air Force who is a candidate for secretary of defense in a potential Obama administration, claimed that efforts to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinian Authority failed because there is no US-written "playbook" to create peace.
An interviewer asked General McPeak "So where's the problem? State? White House?" McPeak pulled no punches. "(The problem rests in) New York City. Miami. We have a large vote here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it…nobody wants to take on that problem. It's just too tough politically. So that means we can't . . . you can't develop a Middle East strategy. It's impossible," he said.
Even prior to the Oregonian interview, McPeak was known as a long-time critic of Israel's presence in Judea, Samaria, Gaza and the Golan Heights. In a 1976 article in Foreign Affairs magazine, he criticized Israel for refusing to withdraw from areas liberated in the 1967 Six Day War, even as he wrote poignantly about the vital security advantages Israel obtained by conquering those areas.
"At the Suez Canal, Israel had the best 'tank ditch' in the Middle East. The Gaza Strip, long a nursery for Egyptian-supported terrorism reaching to within a few miles of Tel Aviv, had come under Israeli administration. On the Golan, Israel at last held the high ground. The bulge of the West Bank, an implicit threat that Israel would be cut in two, had been superseded by the line of the Jordan River. More important, the air threat to Israel had disappeared, at least for the moment. Tel Aviv had been 12 minutes flying time from Egyptian bases in the northern Sinai," he wrote.
Yet the same article calls for an Israeli withdrawal from those areas, and seems to suggest that despite Israel's legitimate security concerns, "genuine security depends on regional accommodation, which the Arab states say cannot occur until all of the occupied territory is returned."
The storm surrounding McPeak is the latest in a series of anti-Israel revelations to tar the Obama campaign in recent months. Obama has long been a favorite son of left wing elements in the United States, but has been strongly criticized for failing to cut ties with radical preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Wright has called Israel a "racist country," said that "Israel" is a dirty word, and claimed US foreign policy was responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Another anti-Israel activist, Arab-American Ali Abunimah, has claimed to know Obama well and to have met him on numerous occasions at pro-Palestinian events in Chicago.
During his tenure as a junior air force commander, McPeak spent time in Israel and participated in joint exercises with the Israeli air force. He acknowledged that he enjoyed his experiences here, "but that's maybe the more cosmopolitan, liberal version of the Israeli population," he added.
McPeak also charged Jews and Christian Zionists with dual-loyalties, and said that concern for Israel manipulated American foreign policy in Iraq.
"Let's say that if one of your abiding concerns is the security of Israel as opposed to a purely American self-interest, then it would make sense to build a dozen or so bases in Iraq," he said.