WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama may have taken care of his Hamas problem on Wednesday with a speech to the AIPAC pro-Israel lobby.
The Illinois senator was ridiculed, criticized and generally harassed back in April when a top Hamas adviser, Ahmed Yousef, told a radio interviewer that the Palestinian militant group — considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. government — liked Obama and hoped he would win the U.S. presidential election.
Yousef’s remarks were labeled a Hamas endorsement and Republican John McCain used them as part of a fundraising appeal to supporters. Obama’s denunciations of Hamas and criticism of McCain over the incident did little to undo the damage.
That may have changed Wednesday, when Obama went before American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington a day after clinching the Democratic nomination and declared his strong support for Israel.
Israel’s security is sacrosanct and it must retain a qualitative military advantage, Obama said. Any peace deal must include Palestinian recognition that Jerusalem would remain Israel’s undivided capital, he said.
Hamas promply unendorsed Obama, a Christian who has had difficulty dispelling a rumor campaign suggesting he is a Muslim and that his advisers have a pro-Arab bent.
“Obama’s comments have confirmed that there will be no change in the U.S. administration’s foreign policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters in Gaza.
“The Democratic and Republican parties support totally the Israeli occupation at the expense of the interests and rights of Arabs and Palestinians,” he said.
“Hamas does not differentiate between the two presidential candidates, Obama and McCain, because their policies regarding the Arab-Israel conflict are the same and are hostile to us, therefore we do have no preference and are not wishing for either of them to win,” Zuhri said.
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Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama speaks at AIPAC conference)