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The Audacity of Chutzpah

At the United Jewish Communities conference, representatives from the McCain, Clinton and Obama campaigns talked with the audience about why their candidate benefits the Jewish community. Video by Emily Freifeld/

Kurtzer attempted to defuse the Wright controversy. "For many of you who belong to synagogues and Jewish community centers, as I have all my life, we would not want to be judged by the words of rabbis who sometimes say ridiculous things," he reasoned.

The others used their time to raise doubts about Obama's fealty to Israel. "Senator Obama has said that he commits in his first year as president to meeting with President Ahmadinejad of Iran," Lewis said. McCain, Eagleburger added, "will not talk with the Syrians, will not talk with the Iranians, will not talk with Hamas and Hezbollah. . . . He isn't going to push the Israelis."

The skepticism continued through the question time. Daroff said he had "heard in the hallways here" that Obama "doesn't see the U.S.-Israel relationship as much of the mainstream of the Senate or the Jewish community sees it."

Kurtzer blamed such sentiment on "attack dogs" and writers of scurrilous e-mails. "He's right within the mainstream of American society and Jewish community concerns," TBA said.

Next question to Kurtzer: Obama's assertion that he needn't have a "Likud view" -- that of Israel's right-wing party -- to be pro-Israel. Kurtzer explained that Obama wanted to see a "plurality of views." Silence in the room.

To that, Lewis retorted: "The role of the president of the United States is to support the decisions that are made by the people of Israel. It is not up to us to pick and choose from among the political parties." The audience members applauded.

Eagleburger piled on. "There's a distinction between those you do talk to," he said, "and those who declare themselves as intent on the destruction of the state of Israel. And if that's their policy, I think we ought not talk to them." More applause.

A conference attendee from Richmond pressed Kurtzer on Obama's "judgment about not disavowing Reverend Wright's views earlier." Another question prompted a back-and-forth about whether Obama had been advised by Brzezinski, who won the enmity of pro-Israel groups for, among other things, accusing Israel of the "killing of hostages" in Lebanon.

"I'm not Brzezinski's spokesperson," Kurtzer demurred. And after yesterday, he may think twice before being Obama's TBA again.

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