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Wexler Asks Jewish Constituents for Faith in Obama

Lots of angst in advance of today's visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House, the first of what figures to be many meetings between him and Obama.

Boca Raton-based Congressman Robert Wexler is just returned from a visit to Israel where he met with Netanyahu, perhaps to lay groundwork for today's discussion. Remember that Wexler was an early, vigorous supporter of Obama's presidential campaign. As a Jewish congressman in a district with a big Jewish community, Wexler has the unenviable task of assuring his constituents that the new president is truly a friend of Israel, even though Obama's also made a point of being friendly to traditional foes in the Arab world. Like Iran, which is trying to develop nuclear weapons and just might be crazy enough to use them against Israel.

Then there's the Obama administration's interest in a two-state solution that would give Palestinians their own nation. Road blocks between Palestinian cities and the recent increase in Israeli settlements along the West Bank suggest Netanyahu favors entrenchment.

In remarks quoted in the Jerusalem Post following his visit, Wexler insisted the two nations have an "unbreakable bond," yet he still struggled to fend off questions from an Israeli press  skeptical about whether Obama and Netanyahu will be able to settle their differences.

"As someone who was with Barack Obama from the very beginning of his campaign, I am not going to be surprised or fall prey to the too often false representation of now President Obama; and likewise I think the degree of angst also misrepresents Prime Minister Netanyahu's policies as well," said Wexler, who spoke of Obama's pro-Israeli credentials as one of the featured speakers at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last summer.
In other words, have faith. But that's a tough case to make without more specific policies, given the gulf between the two sides. Reports from the meeting suggest that Obama took a tough stance on Israeli settlements and that Netanyahu may have convinced Obama to insist more strongly that Iran abandon its nuclear ambitions or else face severe economic sanctions.

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Thomas Francis