Several speakers at the Pepsi Center in Denver, where the Democratic convention is being held, argued that Israel's enemies have been emboldened by Republican missteps. JTA reports that the speeches reflect a strategic decision by the Democrats to go on the attack against the Bush administration over Israel, after years of simply insisting both they and the Republicans were equally supportive of the Jewish state.
Alan Solomont, a top fund raiser for John Kerry's presidential campaign in 2004 and for Obama's this year, said that four years ago it was the "belief of the Kerry campaign that [Israel] was not a point of differentiation, and therefore the campaign did focus on other issues."
'Hamas and Hizbullah are on the March'
This year was different. One of those who used his speech to deliver the new talking points was Senator Kerry, who said: "George Bush, with John McCain at his side, promised to spread freedom, but delivered the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time. They misread the threat and misled the country. Instead of freedom, it’s Hamas, Hizbullah, the Taliban and dictators everywhere that are on the march."
Indiana Senator Evan Bayh claimed: "Under George Bush, the Middle East has become more troubled. That hurts America and endangers our ally, Israel, which has been forced to confront a resurgent Hamas, an emboldened Hizbullah and an Iran determined to get nuclear weapons. That is not the change we need."
Florida Representative Robert Wexler said: "We entered into an unnecessary war and remain bogged down in Iraq as Afghanistan backslides and the architects of Sept. 11 remain free. On Bush and McCain’s watch, we have witnessed the growing influence of a belligerent Iran that has destabilized the Middle East and threatens our ally, Israel."
During his speech, Wexler – who boasts of being the first Jewish congressman to back Obama's presidential bid – described the nominee as a staunch supporter of Israel.
Obama 'Stands with Israel' - and Supports Two-State Solution
"In his heart, in his gut, Barack Obama stands with Israel," Wexler said, adding that the candidate "understands the threats Israel faces from Hamas, Hizbullah, Syria and Iran. And as President, Barack Obama will strongly support Israel’s right and capability to defend itself, and finally make progress toward the goal of a two-state solution that preserves Israel’s security as a Jewish state."
President Bill Clinton and Obama's running mate, Joseph Biden, did not directly reference Hamas and Hizbullah but focused on the harm done by what they described as the Bush administration's failure to utilize diplomacy.
Clinton argued that America's "position in the world has been weakened by," among other things, "a failure to consistently use the power of diplomacy, from the Middle East to Africa to Latin America to Center and Eastern Europe."
Biden Blasts Bush
As for Biden, he pointed to Iran as a hot spot where the United States has failed diplomatically.
"Should we trust John McCain’s judgment when he rejected talking with Iran and then asked: What is there to talk about? Or Barack Obama, who said we must talk and make it clear to Iran that its conduct must change," Biden said. "Now, after seven years of denial, even the Bush administration recognizes that we should talk to Iran, because that’s the best way to advance our security. Again, John McCain was wrong. Barack Obama was right."
RJC fires back
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC), fired back on Thursday, noting that Bush had "redefined" the U.S. relationship with the "Palestinians," marginalized Yasser Arafat and supported Israel's construction of the Judea and Samaria security fence. In addition, he said, Bush had been described as the most pro-Israel president by two Israeli prime ministers.
"I don't know how an appeasement policy being advocated by Sen. Obama and Sen. Biden makes Israel any more safe and secure," Brooks said.
Brooks criticized as "absolutely ludicrous" the Democrats' argument describing the war in Iraq as a disaster that threatened Israel's security. "At the end of the day, we took out one of the most despotic dictators and destabilizing regimes in Iraq that was paying $25,000 to families of suicide bombers sent to kill Israeli civilians," he explained.
Republicans, including former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani earlier this week, have been painting Obama as naïve and undependable when it comes to safeguarding Israel. And, in recent days, they have also attempted to challenge Biden's pro-Israel bona fides. The Republican Jewish Coalition issued a statement Wednesday citing a 1982 clash that Biden had with Israel's then-prime minister, Menachem Begin, in which the Delaware senator criticized Israeli expansion of settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and reportedly raised the possibility of cutting U.S. aid to Israel over the issue. In addition, the RJC cited several pro-Israel congressional letters and resolution that Biden did not sign on to.
Biden, who has worked closely with Israel and Jewish groups on many issues, was praised by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee upon being tapped by Obama.