Dan Kurtzer, a former ambassador to Israel, had the unenviable task of defending Obama's position. Kurtzer started by comparing the rumors about Obama's positions to Anti-Semitism.
Things only got worse from there--when Kurtzer claimed that the 3 candidates were almost identical on Israel, the audience laughed.
While Kurtzer used his time to difuse comments by Obama's pastor Wright about Israel:
The others used their time to raise doubts about Obama's fealty to Israel. "Senator Obama has said that he commits in his first year as president to meeting with President Ahmadinejad of Iran," Lewis said. McCain, Eagleburger added, "will not talk with the Syrians, will not talk with the Iranians, will not talk with Hamas and Hezbollah. . . . He isn't going to push the Israelis."Of course it is safe for the candidates to say they support what Israelis choose, since that means nothing more than backing Olmert's capitulation against the wishes of the Israeli people--whose support for Olmert is in the single digits.
The skepticism continued through the question time. Daroff said he had "heard in the hallways here" that Obama "doesn't see the U.S.-Israel relationship as much of the mainstream of the Senate or the Jewish community sees it."
Kurtzer blamed such sentiment on "attack dogs" and writers of scurrilous e-mails. "He's right within the mainstream of American society and Jewish community concerns," TBA said.
Next question to Kurtzer: Obama's assertion that he needn't have a "Likud view" -- that of Israel's right-wing party -- to be pro-Israel. Kurtzer explained that Obama wanted to see a "plurality of views." Silence in the room.
To that, Lewis retorted: "The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties." The audience members applauded.
Eagleburger piled on. "There's a distinction between those you do talk to," he said, "and those who declare themselves as intent on the destruction of the state of Israel. And if that's their policy, I think we ought not talk to them." More applause. [emphasis added]
Still, whatever the consequence of the fallout over pastor Wright, it is clear that whatever draw Obama may have had with the Jewish community has shrunk.