hotline header

An e-newsletter delivering updates and analysis on current issues about Israel and the Middle East conflict

November 18, 2008

How Can We Ensure that Obama’s Presidency is Good for Israel?

Dear Friend of FLAME:

Last week, President-elect Obama named Illinois Representative Rahm Emanuel his Chief of Staff. This week, we're waiting to see whether Hilary Clinton emerges as his Secretary of State. What do these choices tell us about Obama . . . and specifically what do they portend for U.S. relations with Israel?

Because Obama's legislative record is so thin---just four years as a Senator, two of which he has spent running for President---the American right has had plenty of latitude for whipping up hysteria leading up to Election Day. Some predicted Obama would appoint predominately black politicians and "cronies” to his cabinet and staff. Others warned that he lacked the judgment necessary to handle the outsized political and economic challenges the U.S. is facing. Still others predicted he would capitulate to Islamic terrorists and force Israel into dangerous compromises with the Palestinians.

While Obama's abilities will indeed be tested in the coming months and years, and while we can't predict with much certainty how his promise of "change we can believe in” will translate on the ground, his choice of Rahm Emanuel (and possibly Hilary Clinton) should give some cause for relief.

One thing we do know about Obama is that he likes to surround himself with extremely bright people---and not just those who agree with him. The mere possibility of Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State bears this out. While Jews in the U.S. voted overwhelmingly for Obama, Israelis overwhelmingly supported McCain. But before Obama emerged as the Democratic nominee, Israelis strongly supported Hilary---largely because of Bill Clinton's legacy and the couple's high favorable ratings in Israel. While we can count on Obama to be a strong leader, we could also count on Hilary Clinton to be an assertive, influential Secretary of State---one most Israelis would welcome and respect.

Likewise Rahm Emanuel. Ami Isseroff's blog post below gently chides those on the right who have rushed to judgment about Obama's foreign policy, using the Emanuel appointment as support. Isseroff, an Israeli web author and director of MidEast Web (, outlines Emanuel's long and strong ties to Israel and his often hard-line positions on Israel's security concerns. Emanuel was also a member of Bill Clinton's staff during the Oslo Accords between Yitzak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, so he has intimate familiarity with the issues and personalities involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While Obama clearly leans left and has a minimal track record in Middle East affairs, it's simply too early to judge him. Remember, it's the official policy of both the U.S. and Israeli governments to seek peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Maybe Obama can do it---on terms acceptable to both sides---even though that seems highly doubtful. (After all, who would have predicted Nixon would establish rapprochement with China?) As Zionists, it's our job to make sure the American (and world) public gets a steady stream of facts about the existential threats to Israel by militant Islam---and that our elected officials clearly understand the many reasons to support Israel. Isseroff's analysis provides some hope that our perspective will be represented in the new White House.


Jim Sinkinson,
Director, FLAME


Sunday's newspapers report more Hamas rocket attacks on Sderot, the small Israeli community on near the border to Gaza---this in retaliation for Israel's destruction two weeks ago of a tunnel being built from Gaza into Israel, in which 11 Hamas militants were killed. Again we see Israel defending itself against terrorist incursions and Hamas responding with attacks on innocent civilians. To make sure Americans clearly understand the issues and stakes surrounding Middle East peace, FLAME continues to publish its hard-hitting position papers in media nationwide. That's why FLAME recently published "Rockets Over Sderot: What should Israel do to stop this outrage?.” This piece has appeared in dozens of publications, including college newspapers, in recent months and has reached tens of millions of Americans. We've also mailed it to every member of Congress. I encourage you to print this piece out and pass it on to others. Most of all, if you agree that this kind of public relations---I call it "truth-telling”---on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able---with $500, $250, $100, or even $18? (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to Thanks for continuing to help us keep the flame alive: Am Yisrael Chai! (Israel Lives!)

Let's calm down: Obama's first appointment looks promising for Israel
By Ami Isserof, November 6, 2008

Silly optimist that I am, I thought that with the end of the USA election campaign, the flood of silly season emails would dry up. It has not dried up. It has in fact, gotten sillier if anything.

Mr. Obama is not yet president. He has done nothing at all about the Middle East. There is no real evidence on which to base any opinion of his Middle East policies, and yet these "Zionists" are going full speed ahead, pillorying Obama and his administration as allies of the Hamas.

Over the past few days I am sorry to say that the level of accusations made against Barack Obama has deteriorated. I have gotten mail claiming that Obama uses hypnosis to convince people, and there is a "story" out there in "Zionist" publications claiming that Obama is the son of Malcolm X.

Barack Obama has announced one appointment. It was not Louis Farakhan or Robert Malley or Rashid Khalidi or Jesse Jackson. It was a Palestinian though, just as the doomsayers have been predicting. A Jewish Palestinian, though. He appointed Rahm Emanuel to be the White House Chief of Staff. This is not a policy position, but as the presidential gatekeeper Emanuel will have a certain amount of power. In some administrations, this post is more important than others. Emanuel's family has an interesting history. Their uncle, Emanuel Auerbach, was killed by Arabs in Jerusalem in 1933, and the family took the name "Emanuel" in his honor. Emanuel's father was a messenger for the [militant pro-Zionist Israeli] Irgun.

As can be expected, this was not pleasing to Electronic Intifada editor and supposed Obama friend Ali Abunimah. [FLAME editor's note: In last week's Hotline, we published a press release from the Zionist Organization of America, in which Obama's association with Ali Abunimah was held out as a concern.) Abunimah wrote:

"One of the most influential politicians and fundraisers in his party, Emanuel accompanied Obama to a meeting of AIPAC's executive board just after the Illinois senator had addressed the pro-Israel lobby's conference last June. In Congress, Emanuel has been a consistent and vocal pro-Israel hardliner, sometimes more so than President Bush. In June 2003, for example, he signed a letter criticizing Bush for being insufficiently supportive of Israel. 'We were deeply dismayed to hear your criticism of Israel for fighting acts of terror,' Emanuel, along with 33 other Democrats, wrote to Bush. The letter said that Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian political leaders 'was clearly justified as an application of Israel's right to self-defense.'

"In July 2006, Emanuel was one of several members who called for the cancellation of a speech to Congress by visiting Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki because al-Maliki had criticized Israel's bombing of Lebanon. Emanuel called the Lebanese and Palestinian governments 'totalitarian entities with militias and terrorists acting as democracies' in a 19 July 2006 speech supporting a House resolution backing Israel's bombing of both countries that caused thousands of civilian victims.

"Emanuel has sometimes posed as a defender of Palestinian lives, though never from the constant Israeli violence that is responsible for the vast majority of deaths and injuries. On 14 June 2007 he wrote to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 'on behalf of students in the Gaza Strip whose future is threatened by the ongoing fighting there' which he blamed on 'the violence and militancy of their elders.'"(Source:

That should be a satisfactory reference for Emanuel's credentials as a card-carrying member of the international Zionist conspiracy. It is not enough to satisfy some, as a scandalous report has been circulating with the crucially damning evidence that Rahm's brother Ari is an associate of [left-leaning filmmaker] Michael Moore. No doubt it will also be discovered that his third cousin twice removed had dinner with Cindy Sheehan in 1995, and that a relative in Israel got a draft deferment from the IDF. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that Emanuel volunteered for the IDF during the Gulf War.

Barack Obama gave one other sign of which way the wind is going to blow, for what it is worth. During a press conference on Friday, he spoke mostly of domestic matters and the economy as might be expected, but when asked a question about Iran, he said:

"Iran's development of a nuclear weapon, I believe, is unacceptable and we have to mount an international effort to prevent that from happening,"

He also said Iran's support of terrorist organizations was "something that has to cease." These remarks were greeted with consternation in Iran, as we might expect. What a bummer for all the Ahmadinejad groupies!

These are favorable omens. Of course, those who have the best interests of Israel and the United States at heart should always be ready to provide constructive and credible policy input. They should also be prompt to protest policies that they consider to be unfair or unwise, but that criticism should be based on evidence, not frivolous gossip about Ari Emanuel's (brother of Rahm) clients.

The stream of anti-Obama invective is not based on any real evidence, and it is not about defending Israel or Zionism or Jews. It is a continuation of partisan election propaganda that is aimed at trying to falsely identifying Zionism with Republicanism and conservative extremism. That seems to me to be a big mistake.



How many times have you heard someone lament that Israel doesn’t have good public relations? By supporting FLAME, you help one of the world’s most powerful information efforts to spread the truth about Israel and the Middle East conflict. Please note that because FLAME is a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation, your donation is tax-deductible. Click here to make a donation.


If you know of a friend or colleague who would appreciate learning more Facts and Logic About the Middle East, please forward this issue of the FLAME HOTLINE to them by clicking here.


If you have received this issue of the FLAME HOTLINE from a friend or colleague and you'd like to subscribe, please click here.

Our Ads and Positions | Donate | Our Letters to Editors | Our Acquisition Letters | FLAME’s Purpose | Subscribe to Hotline Alerts | Home

©2008 FLAME. All rights reserved. | Site Credits | Contact Us