Obama's communications gap and U.S.-Israel military cooperation: what's wrong with this picture?
11/12/2010 - 12:00
James Besser

JTA reported yesterday that the Obama administration plans to store an extra $400 million in military equipment in Israel – stuff Israel can use in the event of emergency. Included in the arsenal: smart bombs “and other precision weaponry.”

By 2012, the total inventory of weapons stored in Israel will reach $1.2 billion.

Let me see if I've got this right.

President Obama is “anti-Israel,” I read in blogs every day. Angry emailers keep telling me he's determined to weaken Israel any way he can and that he's ruthlessly using every lever at his disposal to force Israel into a suicidal peace agreement.

How, exactly, does this square with the fact that U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, deemed the Jewish state's vital military lifeline by the IDF, is stronger than ever?

Here's a memo to the Obama haters: this kind of deepening strategic connection doesn't happen without the full support of the White House. Clearly this president sees the relationship as important for U.S. strategic interests, as well as important for a peace process that still may be an administration priority, although I'm not so sure of that.

Unfortunately for the Obama White House, its public outreach to Israel hasn't been nearly as energetic or effective as its military outreach, and that is clearly undercutting some of Obama's key goals in the region.

The boost in strategic cooperation under Obama's watch suggests genuine support for Israel's security interests; his low standing in Israel and among some pro-Israel forces here reflects to a degree a communications deficiency and maybe a blindness to how he is perceived that isn't just confined to the Israel issue.

If you don't believe that, look at the November 2 election returns.

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I suspect if he was a white dude with a middle name like Franklin or Jefferson, Jews would be a little less emotional about his “breaking with precedent”. Recall that Bush I actually threatened to withhold loan guarantees if West Bank settlements did not stop and I don't recall him being labelled anti-Israel.
let me explain it to you very simply, James: Israel is an _emotional issue_ for virtually every Jew. No matter left, right, or anywhere between, Jews are profoundly emotional about Israel. So when Obama did things that broke with Presidential precedent, though he probably did not do them because he hates Jews or Israel, many Jews felt that way, because Israel is an emotional issue. Though Obama now seems to be just as pro-Israel as any previous president (at least in light of your story here), the emotional impression has already been made, and the resulting e-mails and emotions have flown ever since.