JERROLD L. SOBEL DOCUMENTS THE PRESIDENT’S SHODDY RECORD ON ISRAEL
President Obama, Israel, and Voter Priorities:
In a democracy whether voting for president of a condominium or president of the United States voters cast their ballots based upon their priority of concerns. In a condo development issues such as assessments, security, landscape, what color to paint the houses and a superfluity of other issues occupy homeowners mind before voting for a board president.
In just under 6 months American voters will be electing the 45th President of the United States. Before choosing to reelect President Obama for a second term or Governor Romney, voters must likewise prioritize the individual issues which are relevant to them. And there are many.
Healthcare, the economy, unemployment, taxes, women’s issues, gay rights, class warfare, domestic terrorism; to name just a few. Internationally; Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and the Middle East conflict also rank high on people’s minds. Judging by the title of this essay it shouldn’t be difficult to see if not at the top, certainly right near it is where my priorities lie.
For Jewish advocates like myself concerned with the security of Israel going forward, President Obama, by his record, may possibly be in deep trouble. Unlike 2008 his policies and actions towards the Jewish state are no longer a matter of conjecture. As an incumbent he has a record to run on, one in which he himself recognizes a constant need to defend.
Speaking before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), in April, the President had the following to say. “There should not be a shred of doubt right now. When the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” Yet the audience of 13,000 seemed to be inured from this oft repeated mantra and in stead gave Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former Vice President a rousing applause when she stated, “There is no president who has done more to delegitimize and undermine the State of Israel than President Obama,”
An even louder applause went up for Jane Harmon, former Democratic Congresswoman from California when she stated Israel must not become a political football. Near the end of his address, the President closed by saying, “As you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words, you can look at my deeds.” Fair enough, let’s do just that.
Although It seems like a hundred years ago, June 3, will mark just three years since President Obama made his first historic trip to the Middle East by kicking off the first leg of his sojourn to Riyadh, the Capital of Saudi Arabia. Just five months into his presidency his foreign policy tilt toward the Muslim world began to manifest.
Seemingly at odds with a report on the dastardly conditions of women his own State Department would publish two years hence, the President praised the wisdom of the Saudi King. Obama Stated that he came to the desert Kingdom, the birthplace of Islam to seek the wisdom of King Abdullah. It caught the attention and seemed odd to many Americans, since weeks earlier a woman was sentenced to 10 lashes for driving a car in Saudi Arabia and others are routinely flogged and worse upon accusations of adultery. Some wondered what wisdom the President was thinking about? Speaking of weeks earlier. At a G20 meeting in April, 2009 Obama raised eyebrows by displaying uncharacteristic deference to the Saudi Monarch by deeply bowing to him.
Following his re-commitment to the Saudi peace plan; one which demands Israel return to the suicidal pre-’67 armistice lines, the President embarked to Egypt; bypassing his “close ally Israel” (my emphasis), where he was to deliver his widely anticipated mea culpa speech. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
On June 5, 2008, five months prior to his election, before a packed AIPAC audience, candidate Obama insisted that Jerusalem “must remain undivided.” Causing an uproar in the Arab community he immediately equivocated and amended his remarks by stating, the two parties must work it out themselves. But before the same audience with absolute conviction, he called for Jerusalem to become the site of the U.S. Embassy.
Another Obama flip-flop: Jerusalem
Unfortunately, once elected, he used a waiver permitting him to maintain the Embassy in Tel Aviv in contradiction of a 1995 Act of Congress calling for its movement to Jerusalem. By using his waiver; an act Congress is presently seeking to eliminate, Obama reneged upon his earlier pledge not to do so.
As recent as late March of this year, once again flying in the face of the Congress and the American people his Administration, despite Israeli control of West Jerusalem since 1948, still refused to recognize any part of the city as the Capital of Israel. At a State Department briefing, in response to repeated queries, Spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland reiterated, “Our policy with regard to Jerusalem is that it has to be solved through negotiations. We are not going to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, including the final status of Jerusalem. …That’s all I have to say…” Wow, quite a bit askew from the stance candidate Obama took in 2008.
Getting back to his trip to Egypt. The June 4, 2009 mea culpa speech in Cairo set the table for what many consider his obsequious foreign policy to the Muslim world. By the 4th paragraph of his talk, those familiar with the history of Islam were scratching their heads by the statement, “America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.” They do?
Since when have honor killings been acceptable behavior in the United States? Can anyone remember anyone being killed for apostasy in this country? Or gay people running the risk of being stoned to death for their lifestyle? How about women needing 4 males to corroborate an accusation of rape? There were many other gaffs of commission and omission such as referring to 7 million Muslims living in the U.S. when 2.6 million was the correct figure. However, it was his discussion of the Middle East conflict that drew the most ire from Jews and friends of Israel around the world.
Starting with this speech until this very moment, President Obama, like no other president has been obsessed with what he deems the “settlement issue” (my emphasis) as the main impediment to peace. Making no mention of Israel’s acceptance versus Arab/Palestinian rejection of U.N. mandated Partition in 1947; no call for a Palestinian state under illegal Jordanian annexation in Judea and Samaria between 1948-1967; Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer to cede an eventual 91% of Judea and Samaria for creation of a Palestinian state in 2000; or Mahmoud Abbas’ rejection of Prime Minister Olmert’s peace initiative in 2008 entailing: relinquishment of Judea/Samaria( West Bank ); division of Jerusalem as the capital of both countries; joint international administration of the old city by Palestinians, Jordanians, Saudis, Americans, and Israelis. The President in his never ending quest for equanimity, even when none exists, mentioned none of this.
Setting the stage for what would become the most contentious relationship between an American president and Israel since her recreation in 1948, Obama not only placed the onus for peace on the settlement issue, he inferred the recreation of Israel upon the Holocaust without recognition that Jewish people, in majority, have lived in their homeland for centuries. Israeli editorial reaction was swift. Writing in the newspaper Yediot Aharonot, Yoaz Hendel had this to say:
“Only over one evil the new American prophet weeps – the settlements What is left as an obstacle to peace, according to Obama, are those settlers They are the ones responsible for the Israeli-Arab conflict Had we not been witnesses to the result of the dismantling of the settlements in Gaza, someone in Israel still could believe that this is right.”
Writing in the newspaper Ma’ariv, a settler wrote:
“Obama reiterated his wish to establish two states for two peoples. Balance and equality between Jews and Arabs as it were. But Obama “forgot” that in the Jewish state there are more than a million [Israeli] Arabs who enjoy democratic rights unknown to their brothers in Arab countries. No one stops them from building But for us Jews in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] it is forbidden to live, build or to buy land. Obama, who is supposed to be sensitive to racism, has turned himself into a racist.”
Israeli Editorial Reaction to Obama’s Cairo Speech
The Cairo speech is so replete with historical inaccuracies, duplicitous pandering, and outright prevarications that no essay short of rereading it in its entirety can do it justice in terms of its disingenuousness.
Settlements, settlements, and more settlements, where have we heard that term before? Despite the fact that settlement building was never a prerequisite to peace talks before, Obama’s insistence upon it gave the Palestinians a new trump card and in doing so took an effective bargaining chip away from Israel if indeed serious “peace talks’ were ever to resume. Effectively the President was doing Abbas’ bidding. Why would the Palestinians have asked for anything less than the President of the United States? Calling theirs and his bluff, Netanyahu gave in and declared a 10 month settlement freeze in Nov. 2009…..In doing so he stated:
“We have been told by many of our friends that once Israel takes the first meaningful steps toward peace, the Palestinians and Arab states would respond.” What became of this? As we all know, and many of us knew at the time, absolutely nothing. When the 10 months were up, in stead of lambasting Abbas for his intransigence and providing Prime Minister Netanyahu with political cover for his effort, President Obama spoke before the U.N. General Assembly on September 23, 2010 and remarked:
“We believe that the moratorium should be extended.”
Earlier that year, In response to building approvals announced by a mid-level bureaucrat, prior to the moratorium, Hillary Clinton disrespectfully gave a 43 minute phone call tongue lashing to Prime Minister Netanyahu. According to the Jerusalem Post: “The administration’s language was unprecedented in its severity.” Not exactly terms one would expect from a professed ally.
Will Israel Take the Fall?
On February 19, 2011 Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, like so many American Ambassadors before her cast a veto upon a one sided resolution against Israel, this one condemning; you guessed it, Israeli settlement building. No doubt a good thing, but she couldn’t let it go at that. As if her body language were not enough. She expressed deep regret for her vote and espoused the following:
“We regret in the strongest terms the legitimacy and folly of continued Israeli settlement activity.” The political daylight between the two allies kept widening.
Six months later Obama, this time under pressure from the Turks over the Mavi Marmara incident of the prior year, began cajoling Israel to acquiesce to Turkish demands and apologize to their Islamic government over an incident that they themselves started. Netanyahu rightfully stuck to his guns and refused to do so.
If not outright hostility, certainly an unprecedented lack of political support for Israel has been exhibited by this Administration headed by this President. The following appeared in the December 2, 2011 edition of the New York Times:
“WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke sternly on Friday to America’s closest ally in the Middle East, telling Israel that it is partly responsible for its increasing isolation and that it now must take “bold action” — diplomatic, not military — to mend ties with its Arab neighbors and settle previously intractable territorial disputes with the Palestinians.” With unabridged chutzpah, he went on to say:
“I believe security is dependent on a strong military, but it is also dependent on strong diplomacy,” Mr. Panetta said. “And unfortunately, over the past year, we have seen Israel’s isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow, and the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace has effectively been put on hold.”
Unfortunately, he made no mention of Hamas, sworn to Israel’s destruction joining the Palestinian Authority as part of a unity government. Or its constant infiltration and rocket attacks against the South of Israel. When asked what Israel should do, everything else notwithstanding, he replied: “Get to the damn table” — that is, return to negotiations.” Never publicly rebuked or reprimanded for these remarks, they were no doubt given with the concurrence of his boss.
From the get go, by the record of his actions, Obama has believed in one constant, the onus is exclusively upon Israel to make concessions for peace. As outlined in the aforementioned, this is an undeniable fact. The President is a crafty and eloquent speaker but with the exception of the willfully blind, all the obfuscation in the world can not change his verifiable record on Israel.
In terms of voting and reelecting Obama for President in November it comes down to individual priorities. Some may be happy with the economy, the direction of unemployment, healthcare, women’s issues, gay rights, or a plethora of other issues between now and then. But for those that prioritize Israel as a main concern, all the talk in the world can not erase his dubious record.=
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