Washington (CNN) – With the special election to replace former Rep. Anthony Weiner less than seven weeks away, Mideast politics continues to brew as a central issue in one of the nation's most Jewish congressional districts.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Connecticut, a high-profile Jewish lawmaker, weighed in with his support Thursday for the Democratic nominee, David Weprin, in a race that's pitting two candidates against each other on who's a stronger friend of Israel.
"While David Weprin can be counted on to fight for the safety and security of the State of Israel, we can also rely on him to protect the seniors and working families of Brooklyn and Queens," said Lieberman in a press conference in Washington, D.C.
The endorsement came one day after the Republican nominee, businessman Bob Turner, blasted President Barack Obama, demanding the White House "stop paying the salaries of Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons."
Turner's statement was based on a report in The Jerusalem Post Tuesday that claimed 5,500 Palestinian prisoners received a total of $5 million per month in funds from the Palestinian Authority, which in turn receives money from the U.S. government.
"If this report is true, the United States government is paying the salaries of people whose sworn duty is to kill Israeli civilians, while U.S. citizens struggle to
get by," Turner said in a statement. "This is an outrageous situation, and the Obama administration needs to answer for it."
Turner noted that Weprin, his Democratic opponent, has remained silent on the issue.
But an official from the U.S. State Department familiar with the article but not authorized to speak on the record flatly denied the report's findings.
According to State, the last known payment to the Palestinian Authority was made in November, totaling $150 million. The official said any funds to the Palestinian Authority are strictly used to help pay down debt owed to private sector entities–not prisons.
"We go to great lengths to make sure that none of our funding that's provided to the Palestinian Authority falls into the hands of terrorists," the official said. "All of our direct assistance is carefully vetted."
Weprin, meanwhile, has touted his affiliations with local Jewish groups and support from top New York Democrats, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.
But Turner has kept Israel a strong campaign focus since former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, also a high-profile Jewish Democrat, backed Turner in an attempt to rile Obama over his policies on Israel. Koch is fumed over the president's recent calls that a Mideast peace deal be based on Israel's pre-1967 borders with land swaps.
Turner, himself, is not Jewish, while Weprin would be the only Orthodox Jew in the U.S. House of Representatives, if elected.
But Koch crossed party lines hoping a Republican win in the solidly Democratic district would send a warning that Obama faces losing support among his Jewish American base.
Ah yes, elections in New York. Any successful candidate has to have the three "I's": Israel, Italy and Ireland.
Who are they loyal to America or Israel? I could care less about Israel and their problems. These people are supposed to elect someone to represent them in congress NOT Israel! This is a perfect example of Israel and the people of the jewish religion interfering in our system for their benefit! Jewish is a religion and that is ALL it is!
Turner 2011! Save Israel!
United States of Israel , one nation under ..........
This goes way beyond the pail. What does Koch have to do with our elections? Oh yeah, they fund republicans so the rest of America will become China.
The Jewish vote is apparently getting as hyphenated as the Hispanic and Arab vote. They want to worry about their countries of origin (or in the case of Jews, their promised land). Never mind doing what's best for the country that they're citizens of.
Mr. Koch certainly knows a little about relationships..his choice here will go along way to solidify the Senate, both for New York, as well as Israel..the other stuff will take care of itself..the current occupent of the White House will be back in Chicago playing three handed pinochle with Mr. Emanuel, and Mr. Bignanovich..they deserve each other..
Koch is a loud mouth moron...who cares who he supports!
Anyone expressing more loyalty to Israel, anyone who puts the interests of Israel even on a par with those of the US, let alone ahead of those of the US, Is not qualified to be a member of the US Congress.