Shorts: Decision 08

Shaheen beats Sununu in N.H.

Jeanne Shaheen, the former New Hampshire governor, defeated incumbent Sen. John Sununu (R-N.H.) to become the state’s first female senator.

Sununu had been a leading Republican backer in the Senate of greater U.S. engagement in the Middle East; in his earlier career in the House of Representatives, he often bucked initiatives backed by AIPAC. His father, John Sununu, had a tense relationship with pro-Israel groups when he served the first President Bush as chief of staff.

Shaheen’s campaign, her second race for the Senate seat against Sununu, used Sununu’s past in a pitch for pro-Israel support, particularly in a letter from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who is Jewish. Both candidates have Arab American connections; Sununu is of Palestinian descent and Shaheen’s husband, Bill, a Democratic activist in the state, is also an Arab American. — jta

Obama policies concern French Jews

A French Jewish umbrella group’s statement indirectly betrayed some of the French Jewish community’s concerns over Barack Obama’s Mideast policy.

“CRIF hopes that the new chief executive of the United States will firmly oppose the nuclear plans of the fanatical, aggressive and Holocaust-denying Iranian regime,” said an English version of the statement, which added that the organization “wishes that the new American administration will foster peace in the Middle East through realistic measures.”

Though polls on the French Jewish reaction to the American election do not exist due to the country’s secular tradition, individuals in the Jewish community have expressed concerns over the level of Obama’s support for Israel because of what they perceive as his softer diplomatic approach toward terrorism and the Iranian threat. — jta

Obama names chief of staff; he’s Orthodox

President-elect Barack Obama offered the job of White House chief of staff to Congressman Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) Nov. 5. As of press time, Emanuel, the Chicago-born son of former Israelis, had not accepted the offer.

The 48-year-old Emanuel is a member of the Orthodox Jewish community of Chicago and grew up speaking Hebrew with his father, a pediatrician who was a member of the Jewish resistance in pre-state Israel in 1948.

During the Gulf War in 1991, Emanuel came to Israel to serve as a civilian volunteer. Emanuel was a senior adviser to President Clinton and was first elected to Congress in 2002.

Emanuel was named the Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2005. —

Israeli leaders hail Obama victory

Shimon Peres praised the election of Barack Obama as an opportunity to end the “world crisis” and as an “end of racism.”

“It was an American election and a worldwide choice,” the Israeli president said in a statement praising the Democrat for winning the presidency Tuesday. “I don’t recall any other election that practically all of humanity was following with hope and concern. I want to congratulate the newly elected president: young, fresh, promising, representing a change and introducing change.”

Tzipi Livni, the Israeli foreign minister, also welcomed Obama’s election. “During Barack Obama’s recent visit to Israel, and especially during the tour we conducted together in the city of Sderot, the people of Israel were impressed by his commitment to the peace and security of Israel,” she said in a statement.

President-elect Obama has proven his leadership and talents to the whole world, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in a congratulatory statement.

“The special Israel-U.S. relationship is based on shared values and interests and is characterized by ties of close cooperation. Israel and the U.S. have a common desire to advance peace and stability in the Middle East. We have no doubt that the special relations that prevail between the two countries will continue to strengthen during the Obama administration.” — jta

Decision '08