Democrat Gov. Martin O'Malley said today that Hamas "chose to provoke" a military response from Israel through "endless rocket attacks" in recent weeks, and that the U.S. will stand firmly behind its democratic ally in the Middle East against terrorist attacks.
Why did the governor of a small state feel the need to weigh in on an international conflict raging half a world away?
First, Maryland is home to one of the largest Jewish populations in the U.S., outside of New York, Florida and California. While the Baltimore region's Jewish voters tend to lean Democratic, a signficant portion regularly back Republicans, and helped former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. achieve victory in 2002. With his re-election effort now less than two years away, O'Malley needs to make sure the coalition that carried him into office -- which includes Jewish voters -- remains intact.
Second, perhaps the time has come when O'Malley feels the need to stretch his wings beyond the state's borders. If he has aspirations that extend beyond Annapolis, he needs to stake out positions on a range of issues, including the Middle East.
See below for O'Malley's full statement on Hamas and Israel."Israel, like every nation, has the right to defend herself and her people from attack. Since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, Hamas has launched thousands of rocket and mortar attacks indiscriminately against civilian targets in Israel."
"Just as Hamas chose to provoke a military response from Israel with endless rocket attacks, Hamas also has the choice to reject terror and violence with an immediate ceasefire, recognize Israel's right to exist, and accept the existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians as they work toward a just and lasting peace."
"In this current conflict, the United States stands with its democratic ally Israel in her desire for a lasting peace in the Middle East with secure borders."