Obama, Jackson Reject Israel Column

Presidential hopeful U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson are seen at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Awards Breakfast in Chicago on Jan. 15, 2007.
AP/Charles Rex Arbogast
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's campaign sharply rejected on Wednesday a conservative columnist's report that civil rights leader Jesse Jackson expects Obama to reduce Israel's clout at the White House.

Jackson himself denounced New York Post columnist Amir Taheri for "selectively imposing his own point of view and distorting mine" in the column that appeared Tuesday.

The column said Jackson predicted to a policy forum in France last week that "decades of putting Israel's interests first" would end and added in an interview that Zionists would lose a great deal of their clout if Obama is elected.

Obama's national security spokeswoman Wendy Morigi said Jackson does not advise Obama and is "in no position to interpret or share Barack Obama's views on Israel and foreign policy."

"Barack Obama has a fundamental commitment to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship," Morigi said. "As president, he will ensure that Israel can defend itself from every threat it faces, stand with Israel in his quest for a secure peace with its neighbors, and use all elements of American power to end Iran's illicit nuclear program."

In a separate written statement, Jackson said the column was slanted "to incite fear and division."

"I stand forthrightly for the security and stability of Israel, its protection from any form of hostility and a peaceful, nonviolent resolution to coexisting with its Palestinian neighbors," Jackson said. The statement added that he "has never had a conversation with Sen. Obama about Israel or the Middle East."

In July, Jackson apologized for a crude off-air remark he made about Obama in what he thought was a private conversation during a break in taping for a Fox News show. Jackson was reported by Fox to have been saying the Obama appeared to be talking down to blacks in remarks about parental responsibility.