During the week before the Pennsylvania primary, I met with Sen. Barack Obama’s middle east advisers in Washington, Howard Guttman and former Californian Congressman Mel Levine, along with another Obama Middle East aide who spoke on condition of anonymity, in my capacity as the Middle East Correspondent of the Philadelphia Bulletin.

These are the questions The Bulletin posed to Mr. Obama’s Middle East advisers and the responses that they provided:

1. How would a President Obama relate to the security threat posed by Saudi Arabia? [Declassified security reports confirm that Saudi Arabia continues to fund groups defined by the U.S. government as terrorist organizations, while Saudi Arabia maintains an active state of war against the state of Israel since 1948.]

None of Mr. Obama’s advisers could answer this question.

2. Does Mr. Obama support President Bush’s policy of arming the Saudis? [The Bush administration offers major arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite its pro-terror posture]

Neither Guttman nor Levine could tell The Bulletin whether or not Mr. Obama supports the Bush arms sales to Saudi Arabia. They checked with Mr. Obama and could not get an answer.

3. Would a President Obama support the idea that Palestinian refugees should reside in UNRWA refugee camps, under the premise and promise of the “right of return,” instead of being provided with decent living conditions?

While each of Mr. Obama’s advisers emphasized that the candidate opposed the Palestinian “right of return,” none of them could find out what Mr. Obama’s position is concerning continuing American government funding for the UNRWA agency, which fuels the right of return.

4. Would a President Obama continue Mr. Bush’s policy to arm the Fatah organization, since the armed forces of the Fatah are defined by American law as an illegal terrorist organization?

The Obama advisor who spoke on condition of anonymity answered that Mr. Obama wants to continue the policy of developing Fatah as a moderate entity.

5. Would a President Obama ask for a change in the proposed constitution of the Palestinian Fatah state, which is based on the Islamic sharia law, and not allow for juridical status for any religion other than Islam?

All three Obama advisers promised to check this out with the senator. None of them could provide an answer.

6. Would a President Obama restrain Israel from counterattacking in Gaza to put an end to the daily missile attacks from Gaza, as the Bush administration has done?

Mr. Obama’s advisers responded that “Israel has a right to defend itself.”

7. Would a President Obama recognize that Palestinian civilian casualties in Gaza are a direct result of their use of human shields?

Mr. Obama’s advisers answered that “Sen. Obama regards the operations of terrorist organizations as intolerable.”

8. Would a President Obama allow such a policy to continue where the Palestinian Authority (PA) continues to harbor terrorists suspected of murder and refuses to hand them over for trial, as the Clinton and Bush administrations have done?

Mr. Obama’s advisers were more emphatic on this point, stating that Mr. Obama’s policy would “oppose all attempts to harbor terrorists by the Palestinian Authority.”

9. Would a President Obama condition future U.S. assistance on human rights and civil liberties reform in the PA, since the PA operates with no system of civil liberties or human rights?

In another emphatic statement, each of Mr. Obama’s advisers stated that a President Obama would insist on the implementation of a policy that would stand up for human rights and civil liberties in the Palestinian Authority.

10. Would a President Obama ignore the plight of Christians who are persecuted in the PA, or would he champion the cause of the Christians to practice their religion freely in the PA, since the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem has refused to render assistance to Christians who are persecuted by the PA?

Mr. Obama’s advisers promised an answer to The Bulletin with an answer to this question but did not do so.

11. What would the policy of a President Obama be to Syria in regard to Syria’s continuing to host and support a plethora of terror groups?

All three of Obama’s advisers indicated that they would review new directives to the Syrian government in this regard.

12. Would a President Obama support an effort to destroy the Syrian source of lethal narcotics in the Bekka Valley, since Syria continues to orchestrate the export of lethal narcotics to the world?

Mr. Obama’s advisers could not answer this question.

13. Would a President Obama support an effort to force Israel to withdraw from Golan, since the Golan Heights was used by Syria between 1949 and 1967 to attack Israeli communities in Galilee?

All three of Mr. Obama’s advisers answered that “Obama does not believe in pressuring Israel” on any matter related to Syria.

14. Which Middle East road map would a President Obama endorse: the road map of April 30, 2003, or that of May 25, 2003? [The second road map contains the reservations of Israel, which include detailed Israeli directives to disband terror groups as a precondition to continued negotiations.]

Mr. Obama’s three advisers referred this policy question to a top adviser to Mr. Obama. However, they would not give an answer to this question to The Bulletin.

15. Would a President Obama continue the Clinton/Bush policy of ignoring the fact that the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) never ratified the Oslo Accord and never canceled the PLO charter? [The Clinton and Bush administrations overlooked the fact that the PLO never ratified the Oslo Accord “declaration of principles,” which required the PLO and Fatah to recognize Israel, denounce terror and cancel the PLO/Fatah charter, which calls for Israel’s obliteration. It will be recalled that the PLO signed the Oslo Accords on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, and would not ratify these accords when the PLO executive convened on October 6, 1993, in Tunis and would not cancel the PLO charter when the PNC convened on April 24, 1996.]

Mr. Obama’s advisers concurred that a President Obama would insist on a formal PLO ratification of the Oslo Accords and cancellation of the PLO covenant.

16. Would a President Obama issue a directive that any aid to the PA require a cessation of calls to terrorism by the official Arabic language outlets of the PA? [The Clinton and Bush administration consistently ignored the message communicated by the newly constituted PA in the Arabic language, which has communicated a language of war on Israel since the inception of the PA in 1993.]

Mr. Obama’s advisers said that Mr. Obama would institute “a policy of no tolerance of incitement.”

17. Would a President Obama call for a cancellation of the PA educational curriculum, which inculcates the next generation to continue a war to liberate all of Palestine, which can be seen at www.edume.org?

Mr. Obama’s advisers indicated that Mr. Obama would see this as part of a “policy of no tolerance for incitement.”

18. Would a President Obama insist on future Israeli withdrawals, since the Gaza withdrawal indicates that Palestinians will use areas under their control to launch missile attacks against Israel?

The Obama adviser who spoke on condition of anonymity answered that the “Gaza and Lebanon precedent should be taken into consideration,” considering the fact that Israel is ready for compromise.

This article ran in the Philadelphia Bulletin on April 21st, 2008


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David Bedein
David Bedein is an MSW community organizer and an investigative journalist.   In 1987, Bedein established the Israel Resource News Agency at Beit Agron to accompany foreign journalists in their coverage of Israel, to balance the media lobbies established by the PLO and their allies.   Mr. Bedein has reported for news outlets such as CNN Radio, Makor Rishon, Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, BBC and The Jerusalem Post, For four years, Mr. Bedein acted as the Middle East correspondent for The Philadelphia Bulletin, writing 1,062 articles until the newspaper ceased operation in 2010. Bedein has covered breaking Middle East negotiations in Oslo, Ottawa, Shepherdstown, The Wye Plantation, Annapolis, Geneva, Nicosia, Washington, D.C., London, Bonn, and Vienna. Bedein has overseen investigative studies of the Palestinian Authority, the Expulsion Process from Gush Katif and Samaria, The Peres Center for Peace, Peace Now, The International Center for Economic Cooperation of Yossi Beilin, the ISM, Adalah, and the New Israel Fund.   Since 2005, Bedein has also served as Director of the Center for Near East Policy Research.   A focus of the center's investigations is The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). In that context, Bedein authored Roadblock to Peace: How the UN Perpetuates the Arab-Israeli Conflict - UNRWA Policies Reconsidered, which caps Bedein's 28 years of investigations of UNRWA. The Center for Near East Policy Research has been instrumental in reaching elected officials, decision makers and journalists, commissioning studies, reports, news stories and films. In 2009, the center began decided to produce short movies, in addition to monographs, to film every aspect of UNRWA education in a clear and cogent fashion.   The center has so far produced seven short documentary pieces n UNRWA which have received international acclaim and recognition, showing how which UNRWA promotes anti-Semitism and incitement to violence in their education'   In sum, Bedein has pioneered The UNRWA Reform Initiative, a strategy which calls for donor nations to insist on reasonable reforms of UNRWA. Bedein and his team of experts provide timely briefings to members to legislative bodies world wide, bringing the results of his investigations to donor nations, while demanding reforms based on transparency, refugee resettlement and the demand that terrorists be removed from the UNRWA schools and UNRWA payroll.   Bedein's work can be found at: www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com and www.cfnepr.com. A new site,unrwa-monitor.com, will be launched very soon.