Obama sends strong continuity signal to Israel by appointing Emanuel

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Washington, Nov 6 : A day after his historic election to become the first Black US President, Barack Obama reached out to a prominent Jewish congressman Rahm Emanuel to be his Chief of Staff, earning renewed support from the Jewish community here and abroad.

Obama's choice, Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, has already accepted the job; FOX News quoted one Democratic source, as saying. Though Emanuel would say publicly that he's still considering his future.

Obama's offer could be an early signal to the Middle East that the new president intends to follow through on his promises to uphold the US-Israeli alliance in his administration.

"It's just another indication that despite the attempts to imply that Obama would somehow appoint the wrong person or listen to the wrong people when it comes to the US-Israel relationship ... that was never true," said Ira Forman, executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council.

Forman said Obama's selection of Emanuel helps build confidence that the United States will be vigilant in responding to any threats to Israel posed by Iran.

"Rahm has certainly never been accused of being too naive or not decisive in his analysis of these types of issues," Forman said.

Here and around the world, the selection brought swift reaction. The Web site for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz on Wednesday was filled with articles on what an Obama presidency would mean for Israel. The top story, on Emanuel, noted his deep Jewish roots.

Emanuel is the son of a Jerusalem-born doctor who worked for the Israeli underground before the nation's creation following World War II. The congressman belongs to an orthodox congregation in Chicago and worked as a volunteer in Israel during the first Gulf War.

Though Obama was accused of being conciliatory toward Iran and toward Palestinians during the presidential race, an Emanuel appointment could combat those perceptions.

Emanuel, though, has indicated consistent support for Israel's rights. While he has expressed empathy for Palestinians, Emanuel has explicitly condemned their leaders.

In June 2007, Emanuel condemned an outbreak of Palestinian violence in the Gaza Strip and criticized Arab countries for not applying the same kind of pressure on the Palestinians as they have on Israel.

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