Barack Obama declined to condemn Jimmy Carter Wednesday for Carter’s decision to meet with Hamas but said he supports diplomacy with Iran because it has recognized status internationally.
In a meeting with Jewish community leaders in Philadelphia, the Democratic presidential candidate stopped short of condemning the meeting between the former U.S. president and the designated terror group. However, he said direct talks with the Islamic Republic have practical benefits that are in Israel’s interest.
“Hamas is not a state. Hamas is a terrorist organization,” Obama said, explaining the distinction. “They obviously have developed great influence within the Palestinian territories, but they do not control the apparatus of power; they are not legitimately recognized as a state. They do not have a seat in the United Nations. And so I think there is a very clear distinction; not necessarily in terms of some of the odious rhetoric that comes out of Iran’s leadership versus Hamas’ leadership. But there is a distinction in terms of their status within the international community.
Obama has frequently been taunted by his rivals for suggesting as president he’d sit down with America’s enemies without preconditions. He attempted to clarify Wednesday that he would go into meetings with Iranian leaders with a “very clear set of objectives and a very clear set of demands.”
Among those, he said he would press the country to stop pursuing nuclear weapons, stop funding Hezbollah and Hamas and stop threatening Israel.
“My interest in meeting with Iran is practical; it is not based on my assessment of who they are or my judgment about their values, but rather it is a practical assessment in terms of how we can best achieve our ultimate goal, which is an Iran that is not threatening its neighbors, is not threatening Israel, does not possess nuclear weapons, is not funding organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas,” he said.
“They may not agree to any one or all of those demands. But, by having made them directly, it becomes much more difficult for them, I think, to posture on the international stage and it then positions us to be able to obtain the kinds of assistance from potential allies that we need,” Obama continued.
The Illinois senator spoke as Carter is traveling in Israel ahead of meetings with top Hamas leaders, scheduled to take place Thursday and Friday in Egypt and Syria respectively. On Tuesday, Carter met with another Hamas leader, senior politician Nasser Shaer, in the West Bank town of Ramallah.
His trip has been roundly condemned by the Bush administration, U.S. lawmakers and Israeli officials.
Back in Philadelphia, Obama, who is being eyed for a possible future Carter endorsement, further discussed his views for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, saying both sides are going to have to cede ground.
*“Israelis are going to … have to concede enough territorially that you got a coherent Palestinian state, not one that is just a state in name, but one that is functional, that works,” he said.
The candidate also refused to say whether he thought Jerusalem should be divided and East Jerusalem given as a capital for a future Palestinian state.
“I believe this is a decision that has to be made by the parties, not by the United States. But let’s be clear. Israel I think has a historic claim on Jerusalem, and I think that obviously there are sacred sites in the old city that are central to, not just Judaism but also Islam and Christianity. I think it is very important for us to find a way in which all those claims are respected. And this is something that I think is very important for the parties themselves to decide on. But I believe that it is not an acceptable option for Jerusalem to be severed from Israel along the lines of the 1967 border,” he said.
Obama closed his meeting by saying he did not think his relationship with his retiring pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who among other things, has accused Israel of state-sponsored terrorism against the Palestinians, would hurt him in the general election.
**He added that he thought some of the discomfort people have about him has to do with “scurrilous e-mails,” references to his middle name, Hussein, and his race. But he said he has a long history of cooperation with the Jewish community.
“My links to the Jewish community are not political. They preceded my entry into politics,” adding that he’d been influenced by liberal Jewish writers, philosophers and friends.
“There is a kinship and a sense of shared community that predates my political career and will extend beyond this particular election. Know that I will be there for you, just as I believe that you will be there for me,” he said.
*The response from several in the crowd was warm, with Pennsylvania state Rep. Josh Shapiro, an Obama supporter, saying that he thought Obama had adequately responded to issues that concern the Jewish community.
However, Hillary Clinton supporter Nancy Gordon, who chairs the Philadelphia chapter of the Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs, a Jewish organization, said she was not satisfied with Obama’s claims that he hadn’t been aware of Wright’s sermon just after Sept. 11, 2001, in which Wright said the terror attack on the U.S. was an example of the “chickens coming home to roost.”
Gordon said Clinton had her backing because “her commitment to the Jewish community has been steadfast and knowledgeable. His experience on these issues does not compare to hers. You could tell that this is not as much in his core as he says it is.”
*Gee, I dunno, just those two emphasized by me, seem just a damn tad apart. Ahhh, not to worry, Left Wing Jews…help vote him in. I mean, what the hell, it’s Isarel first, THEN the U.S.
**“scurrilous e-mails,” references to his middle name, Hussein, and his race.
Come on Barack Hussein Obama! Hussein IS your “middle name” and you ARE half Black, but ONLY when it suits you, obviously.