Obama's Middle East Stance: Uninformed,
or Intentionally Vague?

by Hillel Fendel
19 Nissan 5768, 24 April 08 09:48

(IsraelNN.com) With Sen. Barack Obama commanding a strong lead over Sen. Hilary Clinton in the race for the U.S. Democractic presidential nomination, Obama's advisors paint a murky picture of his foreign policy positions. Seven out of 18 questions produced either "We don't know" answers, or unfulfilled promises to "check with Obama and get back to you." Most of the others were answered only in a general manner.

Jerusalem-based investigative reporter David Bedein presented a set of 18 foreign policy questions last week to three top Middle East advisors to candidate Obama. Their answers show that Obama has either not developed strong opinions on the complex issues facing a future President of the United States - or refuses to divulge them.

The list of questions Bedein presented to the three advisors - Howard Guttman, former U.S. Rep. Mel Levine (Cal.), and one who wished to remain unnamed - was published, together with any answers that were provided, in Philadelphia's Evening Bulletin newspaper. Excerpts:

Saudi Arabia
Question 1. How would a President Obama relate to the security threat posed by Saudi Arabia? [Declassified security reports confirm that Saudi Arabia continues to fund groups defined by the U.S. government as terrorist organizations, while Saudi Arabia maintains an active state of war against the state of Israel since 1948.]

None of Mr. Obama's advisers could answer this question.

Question 2. Does Mr. Obama support President Bush's policy of arming the Saudis? [The Bush administration offers major arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite its pro-terror posture]

Neither Guttman nor Levine could answer this; they checked with Obama and could not get an answer.

Vagueness on Fatah, PA
Several questions dealt with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority, Israel's main negotiating partners. The three were asked, for instance, if a President Obama would "support the idea that Palestinian refugees should reside in UNRWA refugee camps, under the premise and promise of the 'right of return,' [or be] provided with decent living conditions?" The advisors emphasized that their candidate opposed the Palestinian "right of return," but none of them could find out his position on what Bedein called "continuing American government funding for the UNRWA agency, which fuels the right of return."

The three advisors did not provide answers to these questions:
"Would a President Obama ask for a change in the proposed constitution of the Palestinian Fatah state, which is based on the Islamic sharia law, and not allow for juridical status for any religion other than Islam?" and "Would a President Obama ignore the plight of Christians who are persecuted in the PA, or would he champion the cause of the Christians to practice their religion freely in the PA, since the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem has refused to render assistance to Christians who are persecuted by the PA?"

The three Obama advisors said he would "oppose all attempts to harbor terrorists by the Palestinian Authority" and would "insist on the implementation of a policy that would stand up for human rights and civil liberties in the Palestinian Authority."

At the same time, asked if he would continue the Bush policy of arming Fatah, which is defined by American law as an illegal terrorist organization, one advisor said that Obama "wants to continue the policy of developing Fatah as a moderate entity."

Obama's advisors said their candidate believes Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas, though they avoided specifics.

Regarding Syria
Asked about Syria's continuing support for terror groups, the Obama advisors "indicated that they would review new directives to the Syrian government in this regard." Asked if a "President Obama would support an effort to destroy the Syrian source of lethal narcotics in the Bekka Valley, since Syria continues to orchestrate the export of lethal narcotics to the world?" Mr. Obama's advisers could not answer this question.

They similarly could not answer whether Obama would endorse the US Road Map plan of April 2003, or rather the May 2003 version that included Israel's 14 reservations.

Hints that Future Israeli Withdrawals are in the Cards
Finally, the advisors were asked: "Would a President Obama insist on future Israeli withdrawals, since the Gaza withdrawal indicates that Palestinians will use areas under their control to launch missile attacks against Israel?"

The unnamed adviser responded that the "Gaza and Lebanon precedent should be taken into consideration," considering the fact that Israel is ready for compromise.

Original article: Israel National News
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