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Obama Rebuffs Challenges on His Israel Stance

Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) answered a question on the influence of the endorsement by Nation of Islam head Louis Farrakhan on his support from the Jewish community at the Democratic debate Tuesday night at Cleveland State University in Ohio.

Another issue for Obama besides Farrakhan and White has been his campaign's association with Zbigniew Brzezinski and Robert Malley, two prominent foreign policy experts whom some Jews regard as anti-Israel.

Obama took on those issues in Cleveland when he told Jewish leaders that Brzezinski, a national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is not a key adviser but merely someone he had lunch with and exchanged e-mails with "maybe three times." Malley, a State Department official in the Clinton White House involved in failed efforts to complete a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, "is one of hundreds of people who have sent advice to the campaign," Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), an Obama supporter, wrote in the Jerusalem Post yesterday.

The persistence of the changes against Obama has left his supporters pointing fingers, both at the GOP and at the Clinton campaign. Wexler pointed to a Newsweek article this week that said Clinton senior adviser Ann Lewis had called Brzezinski Obama's "chief foreign policy adviser" during a conference call in January with leaders of major Jewish organizations. Clinton campaign spokesman Phil Singer had no comment.

And the Obama campaign released a letter to Clinton from more than two dozen Ohio Jewish leaders condemning "baseless attacks" that they said are being spread by her campaign.

Solomont referred to e-mails from the Republican Jewish Coalition, which put out a news release Monday in which Executive Director Matthew Brooks said "people should be very skeptical of Barack Obama's shaky Middle East policies."

"I have seen statements by the Republican Jewish Coalition which are distortions and misinformation, and I find it reprehensible," said Solomont, who is Jewish.

Brooks said the coalition's mailings have raised legitimate issues that voters need to scrutinize. "If you can find a distortion, have at it," Brooks said. "But those are all facts, and we think it is important to raise these issues with the Jewish community."

Staff writer Matthew Mosk and polling director Jon Cohen contributed to this report.

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