Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain's campaign aides have jumped on the "Jesse Jackson issue" as evidence that Democratic candidate Senator Barack Obama does not support Israel. The New York Post earlier this week reported that Jackson, a black civil rights activist and preacher, wrote that he said an Obama victory would end "decades of putting Israel's interests first" in government where "Zionists…have controlled American policy."
"It should not surprise anyone that Obama's supporters see what others, from the terrorist group Hamas to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, have seen: an Obama presidency would bring real change to America's policy of support for Israel," stated Randy Scheunemann, Sen. McCain's senior foreign policy adviser.
He added, "Barack Obama has claimed that nobody has suffered more than the Palestinians, praised a former spokesman of a Palestinian terrorist group for reminding him of his own 'blind spots' and 'biases,' and told the New York Times that Hamas and Hezbollah have 'legitimate claims.' Barack Obama expressed support for Jerusalem being the undivided capital of Israel and switched his position 24 hours later in the face of criticism from Palestinians. Barack Obama has said it is a "disgrace" that the United States has not met unconditionally with leaders committed to Israel's destruction. Now, Barack Obama claims to be a strong supporter of Israel but his supporters -- here and abroad -- know better."
The Obama camp totally rejected the criticism and distanced itself from Jackson's remarks, stating that Jackson does not speak for the Democratic candidate. Jackson also later issued a denial.
Shalem Center Fellow Michael Oren, writing in Forbes Magazine, stated this week that despite the shared statement by Senators McCain and Obama on supporting Israel, there are substantial differences in their policies that could affect the Middle East.
He pointed out that Sen. McCain favors moving the American embassy to Jerusalem while Sen. Obama has left his position unclear. "Obama, on the other hand, has expressed reservations about Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank, while McCain has overlooked the matter," Oren wrote.
"McCain has called on the Palestinian Authority to live up to its obligations to clamp down on terror, but Obama has stopped short of making such a demand. Obama has supported Israel's ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza and its peace talks with Syria; McCain opposes both," Oren added.