WASHINGTON -- Democrat Barack Obama accused President Bush on Thursday of launching a "false political attack" with a comment about appeasing dictators.
The Democratic presidential candidate interpreted the remark as a slam against him but the White House denied that the comment was in any way directed at Obama.
In a speech to Israel's Knesset, Bush said that "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 ... We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."
Responding with a statement, the Obama campaign seized on Bush's remarks even as it was unclear to whom Bush was referring.
"It is sad that President Bush would use a speech to the Knesset on the 6Oth anniversary of Israel's independence to launch a false political attack," Obama said in the statement.
"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."
The White House said Bush's comment wasn't a reference to Obama.
"It is not," press secretary Dana Perino told reporters in Israel. "I would think that all of you who cover these issues and have for a long time have known that there are many who have suggested these types of negotiations with people that the president, President Bush, thinks that we should not talk to. I understand when you're running for office you sometimes think the world revolves around you. That is not always true. And it is not true in this case."
Obama, citing past U.S. diplomacy with the Soviet Union and China, has said that as president he would personally negotiate with Iran and offer economic incentives and a chance for peaceful relations if Iranian leaders would forgo their pursuit of nuclear weapons and their support of terrorists.
At the same time, he has said he would strongly reject Iran's development of nuclear weapons, its anti-Semitic rhetoric and terrorist support.