With less than six weeks to go in the presidential election Anthony Lake decided to begin his speech at Rodef Shalom Congregation with a decidedly apolitical message.
“I want to have a personal conversation with you,” said the former National Security Advisor to President Clinton and current foreign policy advisor to Sen. Barack Obama. He then told his story about how he converted to Judaism.
Lake converted five years ago, but not before the media and even the Clinton administration mistakenly identified him as Jewish.
Lake began advising Obama during his senatorial campaign of 2002.
“Obama is the key to change,” Lake said. “The world is fascinated with him. He even has an 80 percent approval rate in France.”
Obama lived in Indonesia as a boy and traveled by bus through Kenya — his father’s homeland. He also spent time in Pakistan.
“He has seen more of the ground level real problems of real people in the world,” Lake said. “This election is going to be an historical opportunity to change our course at home and abroad, at a time of greater peril than the Cuban Missile Crisis.”
Lake, who appeared at Rodef Shalom on Thursday, Sept. 25, is convinced that the only way to accomplish world peace is by negotiating with America’s enemies. He sees the global popularity of Obama as an important advantage for the United States.
“I was very moved when I watched one of my heroes, Yitzhak Rabin, force himself to deal with Yasser Arafat who had blood on his hands. But as Rabin said, ‘you make peace with your enemies, you don’t make peace with your friends.’ ” Lake said. “I thought he was heroic and we need the same kind of tough diplomacy now; whether it is with the Iranians or joining with the Israelis in dealing with the Syrians or the North Koreans or elsewhere.”
The Bush administration has refused to negotiate with enemies, particularly nations suspected of state-sponsored terrorism.
“That approach has failed and the result has been that our European allies have been trying to pressure the Iranians into abandoning their nuclear program without our adding our weight at the table,” Lake said. “The [United Nations] Security Council has passed pinpricks as sanctions, and the Iranians have not changed their extremely dangerous behavior in the slightest. It is time to bring our power and our diplomacy together.”
Lake considers the Iranian nuclear program to be “the most serious threat that Israel and the United States face over the next several years.” He advocates making it clear to the Iranians that they are facing greater sanctions.
“We are keeping all other options including military options on the table,” Lake said. “We go to the Europeans and to others and say, ‘the United States is joining you in direct tough negotiations with the Iranians. And in return, because this is such a dangerous issue and so important we need you to join with us in putting tougher sanctions on the table.’”
Lake also touched on the growing concern of Iran and whether the country posses a bigger threat to Israel or the Saudis.
“Israel — because Ahmadinejad is one of the most vile leaders in the world — has not been threatening the Saudis’ existence and he has been doing that with Israel,” Lake said. “Not only do they have a nuclear program they can produce weapons rotationally within just a few years.
“They also claim to be developing their missile capacity,” he continued. “And if what they claim is right the Shahab 3 Missile has a range of 1200 miles which means it is not only threatening Israel but even parts of Southeastern Europe, the whole region of the Middle East and Russia.”
(Dev Meyers can be reached at Devchronicle@gmail.com.)