Obama and Israel
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|Juda Engelmayer||January 1st 2012|
Cutting Edge News Contributor
To best answer the question, first we need to separate how good Obama is for the Jews versus how good he might be for Israel. The two need to be divided, as without Israel Jews have little else to set themselves apart as Americans and voters as any religious group or any national group within our union.
Jews, like Christians, Sikhs, Hindus, Moslems and all others, want religious freedoms. As a community, Jews seek social justice just as many advocate groups do, advocating for laws regarding welfare, education, and similar matters.
Jews seek public acknowledgment, much like the Irish, Italians, West Indians, and just about every group that chooses a day each year to march down public thoroughfares across the country in celebration of their heritage.
Basically, Jews are not so unique to the American experience, and therefore have common preferences or antipathy for any presidential candidate and essentially all public officials that can be aligned with any number of other religious or national voting groups. Therefore, the essence of “Jewish support” or lack thereof for Obama would be defined by the president’s position on Israel. After all, Obama was the first U.S. President to host Jewish Heritage Month at the White House, but that would not impress those who believe Obama is weak on Israel. Apples and oranges.
For Obama, in certain action he has been fairly friendly, while in his rhetoric and on “real” issues, the naysayers find their fodder. Obama has been a strong supporter of keeping and even building on Israel’s military might, particularly with his support for the Iron Dome. He even worked for and signed legislation assuring Israel of American aid through 2018.
Then, at the United Nations this year, the president pushed hard against the Palestinian bid for independent statehood and is still holding the line in pushing back against Abu Mazen’s drive for U.N. recognition.
So what is the question as far as “Obama and the Jews” is concerned?
It’s partly in his rhetoric, but mostly in his actions on two of the most critical issues to the State of Israel: Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the Palestinian peace initiative. With his right hand he would offer more money and strength to Israel and its security needs, while with his left, he would compromise its very existence.
In response to what he perceived as heavy handedness of the Bush administration’s policies that created a worldwide hatred of America, Obama pledged to engage Iran using “aggressive, principled diplomacy without self-defeating preconditions.” Instead, Iran’s regime took advantage of this appearance of leniency and aggressively worked to develop its nuclear capability while assuring world leaders that it was for domestic consumption and not foreign hostilities.
Then there is the Palestinian question. For all of the money the U.S. spends on Israel’s security efforts, Obama pressured Israel to compromise on its borders and Jerusalem. It was just about six months ago when he stated that Israel needed to return to its pre-’67 borders. Some debate what he may have meant and what he believes in regards to land swaps, but the essence is that Israel is an occupier and needs to relent. Then Obama was overheard with the French president whispering about frustration with Bibi Netanyahu’s “lies” over the construction in the West Bank.
As a result of feeling emboldened, Abu Mazen will not work towards normalization unless Israel stops every building project in the West Bank, even in areas that would remain under Israel’s flag as part of Obama’s presumed “land swaps.”
It is on these two issues where Israel stands the most to lose, and where the critics of Obama say that the platitudes he tenders are just window dressing for public consumption. The emptiness of his actions is more telling. We are nowhere with a peace offering between the Palestinians and Israel, and perhaps now on the brink of opening an old-new front on the Egyptian border, and Iran will likely realize nuclear weaponry capabilities within the coming year.
Obama’s legacy to Jews might see future White House celebrations of Jewish Heritage Month one day recalling and celebrating the short lived, controversial, yet feisty Jewish State.
For what it is worth, Obama has ratcheted up his tough talk against Iran, declaring to a Jewish audience two weeks ago that the U.S. will not accept a nuclear weapon in Iranian hands and alluded to military action to prevent it. Then on “60 Minutes” one week ago, Leon Panetta, the secretary of defense, backed that up with the same allusion.
He said that Israel had always relied on America and its allies in the west to give it permission to make its moves, to protect it, feed it, to essentially be its parent. Obama has put Israel in a position where it has to grow up and be a nation unto itself, to make decisions, take action and do what it needs to do regardless of world “approval”.
He said, “Obama has truly given Israel its independence, and for that, he is the best president the Jews have had.”
Few will argue that Israel is best represented when it stands as a strong nation without relying on America for approval, yet having it come because it cannot rely on the American president to have its back when its existence is hanging in the balance leaves us to wonder what kind of friend President Obama truly is.