During Monday’s debate, when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney pointed out that on his Middle East “apology tour,” President Obama had “skipped Israel, our closest friend in the region,” Obama swiped back with the rebuttal that he had once visited not only the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem in Jerusalem but also the embattled town of Sderot during a 2008 visit as a candidate. Obama said Monday night:
And then I went down to the border towns of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me there where missiles had come down near their children's bedrooms. And I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids. Which is why as president, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles.
After hearing the town mentioned in the debate, the Israeli paper Yediot Aharonot sent reporter Neri Brenner to Sderot to get reaction from residents there – including one man Obama met in July 2008.
Reporter Brenner tracked down Pinhas Amar whose home was struck by a direct hit from a Qassam rocket launched by terrorists in Gaza. Amar told the paper:
"This isn't the first time that Obama is using his visit here as a winning card," said Pinhas Amar, a Sderot resident who met with the leader during his trip to the border town in 2008. […]
"I am disappointed in his attitude towards Israel and his failure to keep his promises," he added. "In my opinion he doesn't really like Israel. He only visited here to get the Jewish vote."
Amar is not convinced by Obama’s suggestion that his visit as a candidate to Sderot provides evidence of his unwavering commitment to the security of the Jewish state. Amar said:
"He's a charmer," he said. "He knows his rhetoric and has a very sharp tongue. He knows how to persuade people while looking them in the eye, but it's all a sham. He says one thing, but he means another."
Amar speculated that Obama wouldn't be partner to a strike on Iran should the need for one arise. "We will have to deal with it alone," he said.
Yediot points out that Obama has on previous occasions evoked his Sderot visit to demonstrate his dedication to Israel as he insists he won’t allow Iran to obtain a doomsday weapon. In his speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC last year, Obama referred to his 2008 meeting with then 8-year-old Osher Tuito who lost part of a leg in a Qassam rocket attack:
When I went to Sderot and saw the daily struggle to survive in the eyes of an eight-year-old boy who lost his leg to a Hamas rocket, and when I walked among the Hall of Names at Yad Vashem, I was reminded of the existential fear of Israelis when a modern dictator seeks nuclear weapons and threatens to wipe Israel off the face of the map -- face of the Earth.
Kobi Harush, head of security for Sderot, said of the Obama-Romney debate:
The reference to the trip was a political statement and nothing more…Someone has to remind him [Obama] that the rocket fire continued since his visit.
Sderot Mayor David Buskila did not criticize President Obama for mentioning his town. He said: "World leaders and the US president in particular mention Sdeort and their concern for the town as an expression of their concern for the State of Israel."
Instead, Buskila took the opportunity to criticize the Israeli government for “not caring” and not doing enough to protect Sderot’s residents: "It's insulting for every resident of Sderot," he said. "They are spitting in the face of the heroic residents who protect the State of Israel, while the State of Israel fails to protect them in every way."
This is not the first time Sderot has been utilized in the American political debate. Sderot resident David Farer wrote in PJ Media last month that the words of at least two Sderot residents featured in a pro-Obama ad were misleadingly edited to show strong support for Obama, when they had actually been meant to criticize the president’s relationship with Israel.
Farer wrote that in the National Jewish Democratic Council’s (NJDC) August ad purporting to show what Israelis on the front lines of conflict really think of President Obama, he recognized some of his neighbors and decided to investigate.
He re-interviewed the interviewees and found:
– One participant, Sasson Sara, was emphatic: “I do not support [Obama].” Sara claims the video omitted several words he spoke, thus giving his statement the appearance of conveying the exact opposite message Sara had intended.
The video shows Sara saying in Hebrew: “Sderot is important to him. The Jewish people are important to him. The state of Israel is important to him.”
Sasson claims he actually spoke the following in Hebrew: “If Sderot is important to him, the Jewish people are important to him, the state of Israel is important to him, then Obama should do more about Iran.”
Most of the interviewees in the Democratic ad seem to genuinely support the president. One of them appears to be the same individual Yediot Aharonot interviewed about Obama’s debate performance, the aforementioned Pinhas Amar, who has an ongoing critique of Obama. PJ Media reported:
– Another participant, Pinchas Ammar, told Farer that he does not support Obama and thinks Obama is not pro-Israel and does not understand Israel’s problems in the least. He was not happy to find himself in a film promoting Obama’s re-election.
Incredibly, this is not the first time Pinchas Ammar has been exploited by an Obama campaign.
When Obama visited Sderot in 2008, Obama himself promised Ammar he would fly him to Washington, D.C., to attend an inaugural ball if he were elected. Many witnesses were present to hear Obama’s promise. After a few months of excitement, the Ammars were disappointed when an invitation never arrived.
Ammar and his wife were seriously injured when a terrorist missile exploded in their kitchen. They have not been able to work since.
TheBlaze tried but was unable to reach him at his Sderot home. The phone company lists only one Pinhas Amar in Sderot, and his name could also be transliterated as Pinchas Ammar.
Beyond the opinion of Sderot residents on the U.S. elections, the New York Times reported Tuesday that American citizens voting via absentee ballot from Israel also seem to largely back Mitt Romney.
Romney has made four trips to Israel, the most recent of which was in July. During a previous trip Romney also visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and Sderot.