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MontCo commissioner candidates tackle Israeli-Palestinian conflict

It seemed like an odd choice for the first official campaign policy release from Montgomery County commissioner candidates Bruce L. Castor Jr. and Jenny Brown. On Friday, the Republicans issued a statement condemning President Barack Obama's calls for a return to Israel's 1967 borders as a jumping off point to reignite Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

But could what seems like overreaching for a couple of local politicos actually be a ploy to push their opponent Democrat Josh Shapiro into a corner?

According to Friday's release, sent from the Castor-Brown campaign to various local reporters:

Castor, the county's former District Attorney, said security concerns are paramount for our country's greatest ally in the Middle East, especially in a time of heightened concern about terrorism and political upheaval.

"While we applaud our President for striking a major blow against al-Qaeda by delivering justice to Osama bin Laden, we cannot abide his directive that Israel should put itself at risk by returning to a border situation that left the country unable to defend itself against constant attacks," said Castor.

So what does Castor-Brown have to gain by going on record with an official Israel policy?

Many in Montgomery County's sizeable Jewish population will be interested to know their take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no matter what little bearing it has on county governance. Strategically, though, the news release could pit Shapiro between two constituencies if the Republicans decide to force the issue.

During  Obama's 2008 race, Shapiro, then deputy speaker of the state house, served as an unofficial campaign liaison to Southeastern Pennsylvania's Jewish community. The legislator hosted community events to sell Obama's stance on Israel.

The president's speech Friday has already drawn criticism from the likes of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. So where does Shapiro fall on the issue: with Obama or with the county's pro-Israel community?

The Castor-Brown news release ends with these enigmatic lines:

Brown and Castor called on their opponents to join them in condemning the White House on this issue.

"The United States should stand side-by-side with Israel and oppose this reckless and naïve proposal," said Castor.

So far, Shapiro has not responded.

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