Corzine Smoothes the Road for Obama in the Holy Land
By Keith B. Richburg
NEW YORK -- Sen. Barack Obama's traveling international road show is not scheduled to land in Israel until later this week, but already the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee has an informal, high profile advance man in the Holy Land -- New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine (D).
Corzine is in Israel on an official visit to boost economic ties between New Jersey and the Jewish state. But in his meetings so far, Corzine told reporters in a conference call, much of the interest has been in the U.S. presidential race. And he said he found Israeli officials receptive to the idea of Obama in the White House.
"There's a lot of talk about American politics," Corzine told reporters in today's midday conference call. While Corzine said he is not there as a campaign spokesman, "I make it clear that I have a preference." He added that he has been telling Israelis, "If there are concerns about the continuity of American policy, that's not a risk that should be on their minds."
Israel is one of the few countries where Obama is not as popular as he is elsewhere; in Europe, large crowds and a raucous welcome await him. But Corzine, who spent Sunday and today in talks with foreign ministry and economic officials in Jerusalem, as well as meeting Prime Minister Ehud Olmet, said, "There's a lot greater openness in the political establishment."
"I didn't hear any rejection of the idea of Barack Obama being the next president of the United States from any of the political leaders I talked to today," Corzine told reporters. "There is an understanding that there tends to be a continuity in American foreign policy from one administration to another."
Despite his efforts to ease Obama's entry to Israel, Corzine has no plans to meet Obama on this trip; he'll be in Tel Aviv and Haifa when Obama is in Jerusalem for a one day stop.
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