The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has expressed concern over reports that President-elect Barack Obama and his senior aides have refused all briefings on the current situation in Gaza from the Israeli government and its officials. In this way, he has been depriving himself of information that will be central to his deliberations on the Middle East, a subject on which he has promised to “hit the ground running” when he assumes office as President on January 20. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Obama and his senior aides have declined briefings from the Israeli government on the current crisis, said two people familiar with the Israeli outreach. Some foreign diplomats said Mr. Obama’s apparent reluctance to speak out on the Middle East is feeding uncertainty over how the international community should move forward on Gaza in the months ahead. A spokesman for Mr. Obama’s transition team said the president-elect has ruled out virtually all contact with foreign governments ahead of the inauguration so as not to give conflicting signals on U.S. policy.” (Jay Solomon, ‘U.S. Transition Slows Negotiations Over Gaza,’ Wall Street Journal, January 5, 2009).
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “The ZOA is concerned about President-elect Obama’s refusal to accept briefings from Israeli officials during the current Gaza operations. This is highly unusual accepting briefings implies no particular policy on behalf of the President-elect, who has taken the unusual step of making no comment on the Middle East on the grounds that George W. Bush is still the President. As we have already noted, this is an anomaly and an approach that has not been taken by President-elect Obama on any other area of policy. He has spoken out on Mumbai massacres, urged President George W. Bush to give loans to automobile companies and made statements on economic policy and the stimulus package.
“Even without endorsing any specific Israeli action, President-elect Obama should have no difficulty condemning a genocidally -minded terror organization like Hamas, which calls in its Charter not only for terrorism and the destruction of Israel but also for the world-wide murder of Jews. More than that, it supports America‘s Islamist enemies and regularly condemns America and says that America will eventually be destroyed. Hamas is listed on the State Department terror list, so there cannot be any remotely reasonable dissent from the proposition that Hamas is a terrorist organization.
“But even more troubling than his silence is President-elect Obama’s refusal to accept briefings from Israeli officials. This merely deprives the President-elect of vital information that will be needed to inform his policy when he enters the White House. To deprive himself thus is even more extraordinary when one considers the fact that President-elect Obama has previously promised to ‘hit the ground running’ on dealing with Middle Eastern problems from ‘day one.’ How will that be possible if he forswears learning all that there is to know before he actually assumes office?
“We view this with some concern. It seems to signal a possible unwillingness to show some solidarity with Israel when it is in a struggle not even with another state, but with recognized terrorists like Hamas. Could this presage any sort of shift away from closeness with Israel? We hope not. We urge President-elect Obama to simply support the position of U.S. President Bush & Secretary of State Rice by stating that Israel has a right to self-defense, to protect its citizens and to make it clear that, if not for the years of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel‘s civilian population, there would be no Israeli military action.”