Obama Distinguishes Between “pro-Israel” and pro-Likud

Barack Obama reportedly said something very important and long overdue to a group of some 100 Cleveland Jewish leaders on Sunday — that being pro-Likud and being “pro-Israel” are two different things.

“I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel that you’re anti-Israel and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have an honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress.”

He said even more about the confined nature of the debate over Israel and its security in this country, according to the dispatch in the Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA). Apparently in defense of his consultations with Zbigniew Brzezinski, who has been harshly critical of neo-conservative influence in the Bush administration, Obama said:

“Frankly some of the commentary that I’ve seen which suggests guilt by association or the notion that unless we are never ever going to ask any difficult questions about how we move peace forward or secure Israel that is non military or non belligerent or doesn’t talk about just crushing the opposition that that somehow is being soft or anti-Israel, I think we’re going to have problems moving forward.”

And he contrasted those constraints on the debate here with the breadth and vigor of the discussion of those same issues in Israel itself.

“There was a very honest, thoughtful debate taking place inside Israel. All of you, I’m sure, have experienced this when you travel there. Understandably, because of the pressure that Israel is under, I think the U.S. pro-Israel community is sometimes a little more protective or concerned about opening up that conversation. But all I’m saying though is that actually ultimately should be our goal, to have that same clear-eyed view about how we approach these issues.”

The staunchly pro-Likud New York Sun is carrying a partial transcript of the meeting it obtained from the Obama campaign.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. I’m surprised and disappointed that Obama, while trying to curry favor and placate the Israeli lobby, has not said a word in protest against Israel’s brutal entrapment and starving of a million Palestinians in Gaza.

  2. Honestly, I think Obama can’t address the Israel thorn in total clarity, as doing so would mean that he will be kicked out of the race and smeared by the media. The methods he has been following are balanced and take into consideration the treacherous waters that a politician desiring to be elected to the presidency of the US must navigate.

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  3. Hooray for Barak Obama! Americans should support Israel and oppose the Likud. The Likud’s expansionist ideas are bad for Israel, bad for the Arab world, bad for America, and bad for the rest of the planet. Likud policies are a boon to al-Qaeda and a serious threat to American national security. The Likud’s friends in the US have long gotten away with conflating criticism of Likud with criticism of Israel. Bless Obama for drawing the distinction between supporting Israel and supporting the Likud. Every American should do likewise whenever they discuss US policy toward Israel.

  4. The Clintons are truly pro-Israel and anti-Likud. Bill has said that one of the first priorities in a Hillary administration would be a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Having seen what Bill tried to achieve with Barak and Arafat, I believe any deal the Clintons achieve would be fair to both sides.

    I believe Obama’s comment is his code for saying he’s pro-Palestinian, at Israel’s expense. He once made a comment that the the Palestinians are the “most oppressed people on Earth.” He has referred to Israel as being “beligerant” and “crushing the opposition.” He wants a sizeable percentage of Jewish votes, so he is not talking outright, but his “code words” imply that if he is elected President he will be an anathema to Israel and Jews overall.

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