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For Barack Obama, a careful courting of Jewish vote

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Recalibrated remarks

Even in that short span, his remarks have undergone a subtle evolution.

In March, he spoke of relaxing restrictions on aid to the Palestinians and said "both the Israeli and Palestinian people have suffered from the failure to achieve" the "goal" of "two states living side by side in peace and security." While asserting that the United States should isolate Hamas and other Palestinian Islamic militants, he said that "Israel will also have some heavy stones to carry" in any peace process.

By last week, however, the references to Palestinian suffering and Israeli heavy-lifting were gone, replaced by a less nuanced pro-Israel stance nearly indistinguishable from that of his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.

"When I am president, the United States will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel in search of this peace and in defense against those who seek its destruction," Obama told an audience at the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), where his staff also handed out a 29-page "American-Israeli Relationship Issue Packet."

Yet two days later, when asked at the debate at South Carolina State University to name America's three most important allies, Obama listed the European Union, NATO, and Japan.

"I didn't hear you mention Israel," Mr. Williams interjected, asking whether the senator still stood behind his statement that "no one is suffering more than the Palestinian people."

"What I said is, nobody has suffered more than the Palestinian people from the failure of the Palestinian leadership to recognize Israel, to renounce violence, and to get serious about negotiating peace and security for the region," Obama replied. "Israel has been one of our most important allies around the world."

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