JERUSALEM — Sen. Barack Obama stepped gingerly through the intractable politics of the Middle East on Wednesday, offering resolute support for Israel's security, warning that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons would be a "game-changing" event for the world, and pledging to make peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians one of his highest priorities if he becomes president.
By motorcade and helicopter, in private meetings and public appearances, the Democratic presidential candidate moved from the Yad Vashem holocaust museum in Jerusalem to the Palestinian Authority headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah to the southern Israeli town of Sderot just outside the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.
Before dawn today in Jerusalem, he paid a predawn visit to the holiest place in Judaism, bowing his head in prayer at the Western Wall and pushing a small note into a crevice in the ancient wall, a custom that is observed by many.
With an eye to Jewish voters back in the United States and to public opinion in Israel, Obama defended himself Wednesday as a staunch and longtime friend of Israel and said he has a voting record that proves it. "The way you know where somebody's going is where have they been," he said. "And I've been with Israel for many, many years now."
Republican John McCain visited Israel last spring, also stopping in Sderot.