I missed this when it was first reported yesterday, but it’s worth noting. The Politico’s Ben Smith reported that AIPAC released two letters from the Senate addressed to the President in which the signatories affirm, among other things, Israel’s right to defend itself in response to attacks from Gaza:
One letter is signed by 77 senators, including John McCain.
The other is signed by Barack Obama.
The letters don’t differ on major points. Obama’s letter omits even faint praise for Bush. It also is less explicit in calling for a veto of a United Nations resolution, though it does call for standing up for Israel at the U.N. And it adds a passage praising the Israeli negotiations with Syria.
But it is a mark of the difference between the two campaigns: Obama’s is extremely focused on the clarity of his message, and isn’t about to sign onto others’ roughly similar words or views.
Smith’s primarily a reporter so it’s not his job to read too much into this, but saying Obama released his own letter because he’s “extremely focused on the clarity of his message” is excessively charitable. Based on the contents of his letter, Obama would like to see the Palestinians and Israelis get together and hash things out. Yet he can’t bring himself to sign on to the same letter as 77 other senators? His decision to not sign on to the main letter suggests he doesn’t work well with others and/or he’s significantly outside the mainstream on Israel policy such that he can’t bring himself to align with the majority on some level, despite Smith’s suggestion that the the differences in the letters are minor. Stunts like this can’t be terribly reassuring to Jewish voters.
UPDATE — A reader draws my attention to this sentence from the second paragraph of Obama’s letter:
But I am deeply concerned that Israel’s security has been put at risk both because of renewed threats from implacable enemies like Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas, and because of policy choices by the United States. [Emphasis added]
Does Obama really want to go around blaming Israel’s security problems on the U.S., let alone do it in the same sentence he notes the threats presented by Iran, Hizbollah and Hamas? Well, you’d certainly be hard pressed to find many people in congress willing to sign on to that notion.