Obama defends Israel policy at New York fundraiser

NEW YORK Wed Nov 30, 2011 9:16pm EST

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about extending and expanding the payroll tax cut during his visit to Scranton, Pennsylvania November 30, 2011.      REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Barack Obama talks about extending and expanding the payroll tax cut during his visit to Scranton, Pennsylvania November 30, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - President Barack Obama defended his policy toward Israel on Wednesday at a political fundraiser where a prominent American Jewish leader mentioned concerns in the Jewish community about the U.S.-Israeli relationship.

Obama, who has been criticized by some of Israel's U.S. supporters for being tough on a close ally and has had strained ties with Israeli Prime Benjamin Netanyahu, offered strong assurances of his commitment to Israel's security.

"I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration," Obama said. "We don't compromise when it comes to Israel's security ... and that will continue."

The president was speaking to campaign donors at the Manhattan home of Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, who said "it would be remiss for me not to say there are many in the Jewish community who are concerned" about the relationship between Israel and the United States.

Rosen added, however, that "America has never been as supportive of the state of Israel as President Obama and his administration."

The White House wants to shore up support among Jewish voters for Obama's 2012 re-election bid. He won nearly eight of every 10 Jewish voters in 2008, but a slip would jeopardize his re-election drive in battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania, where they are an important swing bloc.

Obama faced criticism from some Jewish leaders earlier this year when he insisted that any negotiations on the borders of a future Palestinian state begin on the basis of lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in a 1967 war. His Middle East peace efforts have mostly stalled.

But Obama won praise from Israel and its backers for his opposition to a Palestinian push beginning in September to win U.N. statehood recognition, and he has also been credited for taking a tough line with Iran, Israel's arch-enemy.

"No ally is more important than the state of Israel," Obama said at the fundraiser, which collected at least $300,000 from wealthy donors for his re-election bid and other Democratic campaigns.

(Reporting by Laura MacInnis; Writing by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Comments (3)
amos033 wrote:
How many visits has Obama made to Israel?

Dec 01, 2011 10:18am EST  --  Report as abuse
SamSmithers wrote:
I think we need to be less supportive of Israel. Israel has dragged its feet on peace talks while saying it wants them. All the while it has been land garbing knowing talks will never happen while it does.
We need to support peace in the middle east, not one country over another.

Dec 01, 2011 12:11pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Brian57 wrote:
This administration has been one of the least supportive of Israel. Obama is only interested in the Jewish support and wants nothing to do with Israel(Especially since he is a Muslim). I will be surprised and very disappointed if the Jewish vote goes toward the Democrats in the next presidential election.

Dec 01, 2011 10:25pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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