White House officials say Obama’s assertion did not reflect a shift in U.S. policy. But the president’s comments touched a nerve among pro-Israel activists, drew a rare Oval Office rebuke from Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and instantly became a litmus test in domestic American politics.
Now Obama — whom critics often accuse of employing a play-it-safe governing style in which he waits for others to take the lead — is largely isolated politically in raising the issue of boundaries.
Among the prominent Israel supporters upon whom Obama has relied for advice are Lee Rosenberg, president of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Alan Solow, who will leave his post as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations next month. Both have been key behind-the-scenes advocates for Obama in reassuring skeptical backers.
This week, the president’s newly chosen national Democratic Party chairman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, signaled that she, too, will serve as an emissary. Her South Florida district is home
to one of the country’s biggest Jewish populations,