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.