JERUSALEM (CNN) – President Bush launched a sharp but veiled attack Thursday on Sen. Barack Obama and other Democrats, suggesting they favor "appeasement" of terrorists in the same way some Western leaders appeased Hitler in the run-up to World War II.
The president did not name Obama or any other Democrat, but White House aides privately acknowledged the remarks were aimed at the presidential candidate and others in his party. Former President Jimmy Carter has called for talks with Hamas.
"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," Bush said at Israel's 60th anniversary celebration in Jerusalem.
"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to Israel's parliament, the Knesset. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is - the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
The remarks seemed to be a not-so-subtle attempt to continue to raise doubts about Obama with Jewish Americans. Those doubts were earlier stoked by Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee in the 2008 presidential election, when he recently charged that Obama is the favored candidate of the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas, which the U.S. government has listed as a terrorist group.
Obama last week called the Hamas allegation a "smear" and lashed out Thursday at Bush's speech in Israel.
"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack," Obama said in a statement released to CNN by his campaign. "It is time to turn the page on eight years of policies that have strengthened Iran and failed to secure America or our ally Israel...."
"George Bush knows that I have never supported engagement with terrorists, and the president's extraordinary politicization of foreign policy and the politics of fear do nothing to secure the American people or our stalwart ally Israel," Obama's statement said.
Obama favors "tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions," according to his Web site, "and is willing to meet with the leaders of all nations, friend and foe." He does not favor talks with Hamas, which he has called a terrorist organization.
The Bush administration held three rounds of discussions with Iran about security in Iraq last year, including two at the ambassadorial level, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates Wednesday said Washington needed to "figure out a way to develop some leverage ... and then sit down and talk with" Iran.
Bush largely focused his speech in Jerusalem on highlighting the American-Israeli partnership. "The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty," he said.
Bush said the United States and Israel are locked in an ideological struggle with radicals in the Middle East, using the speech to tie al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden to the terror groups Hamas and Hezbollah. "That is why the founding charter of Hamas calls for the 'elimination' of Israel," said Bush. "That is why the followers of Hezbollah chant 'Death to Israel, Death to America!' That is why Osama bin Laden teaches that 'the killing of Jews and Americans is one of the biggest duties.' And that is why the president of Iran dreams of returning the Middle East to the Middle Ages and calls for Israel to be wiped off the map."
Bush then made his transition to Obama and other Democrats without naming names, raising the specter of the Holocaust to make his point.
"There are good and decent people who cannot fathom the darkness in these men and try to explain their words away," said Bush. "This is natural. But it is deadly wrong.
"As witnesses to evil in the past, we carry a solemn responsibility to take these words seriously. Jews and Americans have seen the consequences of disregarding the words of leaders who espouse hatred. And that is a mistake the world must not repeat in the 21st century," the president said.
(Updated with new Obama comment)