It was off the races last night, with the first televised debate between all 8 Democratic presidential candidates. (Mike Gravel, anybody?)
When asked which countries are America’s most three important allies around the world, Obama mentioned two (the E.U. and Nato) and didn’t mention Israel:
Senator Obama, what are America’s three most important allies around the world?
OBAMA: Well, I think the European Union as a whole has been a long-standing ally of ours, and through NATO we’ve been able to make some significant progress. Afghanistan, in particular, is an area where we should be focusing. NATO has made real contributions there.
Unfortunately, because of the distraction of Iraq, we have not finished the job in terms of making certain that we are driving back the Taliban, stabilizing the Karzai government, capturing bin Laden and making sure that we’ve rooted out terrorism in that region.
OBAMA: We also have to look east, because increasingly, the center of gravity in this world is shifting to Asia. Japan has been an outstanding ally of ours for many years.
But, obviously, China is rising and it’s not going away.
They’re neither our enemy nor our friend. They’re competitors. But we have to make sure that we have enough military-to-military contact, and forge enough of a relationship with them that we can stabilize the region.
That’s something I’d like to do as president.
MODERATOR: Senator, thanks. I’ll give you a follow-up.I didn’t hear you mention Israel, and I ask because there is a quote attributed to your name. You said recently, “No one is suffering more than the Palestinian people.” Do you stand by that remark?
OBAMA: Well, keep in mind what the remark actually, if you had the whole thing, said. And what I said is nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region.
OBAMA: Israel has been one of our most important allies around the world. It’s the only established democracy in the Middle East. It’s the linchpin of much of our efforts in the Middle East.
But the United States has to get engaged in this region. And that’s something that this president has not done. That’s something that I intend to do.