Obama Abroad: Israelis Watching, Listening Closely

Obama Abroad: Israelis Watching, Listening Closely

Sen. Barack Obama's whirlwind tour of the Middle East and Europe, as everyone knows, has its primary intended audience in the United States. The trip amounts to a high-mileage campaign swing aimed at impressing voters at home. In Israel, however, a local audience without the right to vote in America is paying close attention. And the conclusion that Israelis and their leaders reach about this would-be U.S. commander-in-chief could shape their decision about what to do in the coming months regarding Iran. To put it bluntly, Obama's behavior in Israel and during the rest of his trip could determine whether or not Israel decides to attack Iran before the next American president takes office.

When Obama landed at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday night for a hectic 36-hour visit, his campaign plane doubled as a stage backdrop for the arrival ceremony, the words "Change We Can Believe In" emblazoned on the fuselage. For Israelis, the key to the candidate is exactly what kind of change he has in mind.

Obama seemed to say all the right things, stressing his commitment to Israel's security and his determination to work for peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Even before the plane departed for Israel, Obama managed to set the scene for his hosts, when he forcefully condemned a terrorist attack against Israelis, which happened just a few hundred yards from the Jerusalem hotel where his rooms were being readied only hours before his arrival. Again, after a meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres he declared, "I'm here on this trip to reaffirm the special relationship between Israel and the United States and my abiding commitment to Israel's security." In a meeting with opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama spoke of the "primacy" of preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Everyone listened carefully.

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