Setting the record straight on the president's professed record of supporting the Jewish State.
President Obama took the stage on Sunday morning March 4th at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference to deliver proof of his unwavering support for Israel. He declared to AIPAC's fervent pro-Israel audience that his commitment to Israel's security has been unprecedented. "When the chips are down, I have Israel's back," he said. But the president's assurances ring hollow with those familiar with the actual historical record of the administration's treatment of the Jewish State -- a record amply outlined by David Horowitz and Jacob Laksin in the Freedom Center's pamphlet, "Obama and the War Against the Jews." The president's latest twisted representation of his "pro-Israel" administration, therefore, is in need of untwisting.
The President began his speech by lavishing warm praise on Israeli President Shimon Peres, who had just previously said in his own speech that Israel has "a friend in the White House." He announced that he will be inviting Peres to the White House later this spring to present him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. "I am grateful for his life’s work and his moral example," the President affirmed.
Obama offered no such praise for the resolute leadership of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he is meeting this week, and who carries the real burdens of Israel's security on his shoulders.
The Preisdent's speech to AIPAC contained four major themes, which were previewed in his extensive interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic.
First, President Obama emphasized the strong, "unshakable" bond between the United States and the "Jewish state of Israel." He referred not only to the two countries' shared economic and security interests, but also to their common ideals of freedom and belief in human dignity:
The United States and Israel share interests, but we also share those human values that Shimon spoke about: A commitment to human dignity. A belief that freedom is a right that is given to all of God’s children. An experience that shows us that democracy is the one and only form of government that can truly respond to the aspirations of citizens.
President Obama also said that "we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism" and will fight any efforts to de-legitimize the Jewish state.
Yet Obama failed to acknowledge that the Arab Spring, which his administration has strongly supported, is backfiring by producing conditions that are largely antithetical to the universal human values that the United States and Israel share in common. He failed to acknowledge that the rising power of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, which his own administration has described in positive terms, threatens the durability of the three decade-old peace treaty between Egypt and Israel and is perpetuating the Arabs' vicious slander against Zionism.
For example, Ali Abd Al-Fattah, a Muslim Brotherhood leader in Egypt, said the following during an interview which aired on Palestine Today TV on February 19, 2012:
The time has come for the entire Egyptian and Arab people to unite against the Zionist-American enterprise. We can do without all the foreign aid and dictates, and we can liberate Palestine from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, by means of our determination and our capabilities... The time will come when all the Arab peoples will strive to realize their aspirations, and Arab Jerusalem – both East and West Jerusalem – will become the capital of the State of Palestine, the accursed Jews will return to wherever they came from, and all the Palestinian rights will be restored, like the Right of Return of the refugees, and the Arab land will be completely cleansed from Zionist filth.
President Obama missed a valuable opportunity to specifically contrast such hateful rhetoric, which is all too typical in the Muslim world, with Israel's desire to live in freedom and peace with its neighbors.
President Obama's second theme in his speech to AIPAC was that his words of support for Israel have been matched by his actions. "If you want to know where my heart lies, look at what I have done," he said.
Obama claimed that "over the last three years, as President of the United States, I have kept my commitments to the state of Israel. At every crucial juncture — at every fork in the road — we have been there for Israel. Every single time."
Obama listed several examples of his accomplishments, such as providing Israel with more advanced technology and increased military aid, including providing Israel with funding to deploy the Iron Dome system for the protection of Israeli civilians against rocket attacks.
"And make no mistake," Obama said, "we will do what it takes to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge — because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat."
The Obama administration does deserve credit for a number of actions it has taken in support of Israel's military security, including its supplying Israel with bunker-busting bombs. However, while discussing what he has done for Israel, Obama might also have noted that the Israeli-American relationship is not a one-way street in which the United States always gives and Israel always takes, as some Americans seem to believe. Israel also contributes significantly to America's security. In addition to shared intelligence, for example, an Israeli company has developed advanced armor technologies used in the majority of the U.S. vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, helping to save thousands of lives of U.S. service men and women.
Obama also took credit in his speech for challenging the one-sided Goldstone Report that had unfairly singled out Israel's actions during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, for staying away from the Durban "anti-racism" conferences, for opposing efforts to boycott and divest from Israel and for standing up for Israel in the United Nations.
However, if we use Obama's own standard of judging him by his deeds, his record in unequivocally standing by our closest ally in the Middle East is mixed at best.
For example, President Obama decided that the United States should join the virulently anti-Israel United Nations Human Rights Council. He said that when "one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them." But despite knowing the dismal track record of this Council, Obama nevertheless helped legitimize its actions by joining it in the first place. He intends for the United States to remain a paying member.
As Anne Bayefsky, director of the Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust at Touro College, explained:
What was the president’s response to the ritualized Jew-bating (sic) that carries on unabated in a global forum in the name of human rights? He is now actively seeking a second term on the Council for the United States.
Not once did President Obama make the equal treatment of the Jewish state a condition for remaining on this “human rights” body — notwithstanding that the whole foundation of the UN Charter is the “equal rights of nations large and small.”
With regard to Palestinian-Israeli negotiations towards a secure and lasting peace - the third theme of President Obama's AIPAC speech - his actual deeds have strongly undercut his words of support for "a secure Israel that lives side by side with an independent Palestinian state."
From the very beginning of his administration, President Obama has sought to cast blame on Israel for the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He tried to pressure Israel to agree to a complete freeze of settlements, including freezing the building of additional housing in East Jerusalem. This gave Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the excuse he needed to refuse to enter into good faith direct negotiations with Israel regarding all outstanding issues.
During his 2010 UN General Assembly speech, Obama helped establish in the Palestinians' minds a September 2011 date for a “state of Palestine” becoming “a new member of the United Nations.” Then, faced with Abbas's drive to end-run direct negotiations with Israel and seek United Nations recognition of Palestinian statehood in September 2011, Obama had to do an about-face in order to slow the Palestinians' unilateral statehood bid down.
In May, 2011, on the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu's previous visit to the White House, Obama threw Israel under the bus with an irresponsible proposal that Israel agree to return to the pre-1967 lines, with some unspecified mutual land swaps, as the basis for a peace agreement with the Palestinians. This proposal demonstrated utter disregard for Israel's legitimate security needs. Even a brief visit by the president to Israel, to see how those "green lines" left Israeli civilians vulnerable to constant sniping and artillery attacks, would have exposed him to the realities on the ground.
Moreover, President Obama did not propose even one concrete concession on the part of the Palestinians in return for what he was urging upon the Israelis. Most importantly, if Obama expects Israel to live as if the clock could be turned back to pre-1967, he should publicly stipulate that the Palestinians must give up their so-called "right of return" to live within pre-1967 Israel.
The fourth theme of Obama's AIPAC speech was the Iranian nuclear threat. He began this portion of his speech by noting that "No Israeli government can tolerate a nuclear weapon in the hands of a regime that denies the Holocaust, threatens to wipe Israel off the map, and sponsors terrorist groups committed to Israel’s destruction." He said that he understood "the profound historical obligation that weighs on the shoulders of Bibi Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and all of Israel’s leaders."
President Obama also made clear that Iran was not just Israel's problem alone. A nuclear-armed Iran, he said, "is also counter to the national security interests of the United States." He expressly rejected any notion of merely containing a nuclear Iran.
The president claimed that his initial policy of engagement allowed the United States to rally the international community more than ever before towards undertaking an escalating series of steps to isolate the Iranian regime, including the imposition of economically painful sanctions. As a result, Obama contended, "Iran is under greater pressure than ever before."
Obama said that he would not rule out the use of force to stop Iran from possessing nuclear weapons "when time and circumstances demand it," but believes that the "opportunity still remains for diplomacy."
But time has always been, and remains, in Iran's favor. Herein lies the fundamental fallacy of Obama's Iran policy since the beginning of his administration. He has allowed Iran to run out the clock in the mistaken belief that Iran's leaders can be reasoned with.
In 2009, Obama had the chance to express America's strong public support for the Iranian dissidents in the streets protesting the fraudulent re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and possibly help to effect regime change. Instead, he did nothing. He said that he did not want to meddle in the internal politics of Iran. He also expressed the hope that it wasn't too late "for the Iranian government to see there is a peaceful path that leads to legitimacy in the eyes of the Iranian people."
The sanctions since that time have increased in small increments and only now may be having a noticeable effect. In the meantime, however, Iran has moved ever closer to achieving a nuclear arms capability.
Obama somehow still believes that the Iranian leaders can be persuaded to give up their long-sought goal. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Obama stated in his recent Atlantic interview that the Iranian leaders are "sensitive to the opinions of the people." He wants to believe that it is still possible to negotiate meaningfully with the madmen running the Iranian regime because they are "able to make decisions based on trying to avoid bad outcomes from their perspective."
The question is what perspective Obama thinks that Iran's leaders have. He would not say, in response to a question during his Atlantic interview, whether he agreed with Prime Minister Netanyahu's description of Iran's leaders as an "apocalyptic cult." Yet, that is exactly what they are. They believe in the coming of the 12th Imam, and that it is their duty to accelerate this Imam's arrival by first destroying the Little Satan and then the Big Satan - Israel and the United States respectively. How do you reason with such fanatical megalomaniacs? You don't, but Obama still thinks he can.
Nevertheless, President Obama is clearly aware that the clock is ticking. Trying to walk a fine line between continued efforts at diplomacy, reliance on escalating sanctions and a credible threat of force, President Obama sought in his AIPAC speech to assuage Prime Minister Netanyahu's concerns about what he is prepared to do to stop Iran from becoming nuclear-armed:
Iran’s leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States, just as they should not doubt Israel’s sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs. I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say...
Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States and its interests.
Prime Minister Netanyahu commented after President Obama's speech that he appreciated what the president had to say, especially the fact that Obama repeated his position that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons and that containment is not an option. Most of all, Netanyahu remarked, "I appreciate that he said that Israel must be able to defend itself against any threat."
The question is whether the two leaders will truly be in synch on the critical issue of how to deal with the Iranian threat to world peace during their White House meeting and remain so thereafter. We shall see.
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