Can Obama Be Trusted To Save Israel?
Tue, 04/03/2012
Editor And Publisher
Gary Rosenblatt
Gary Rosenblatt

Let me make clear at the outset: I don’t know what Israel plans to do about the Iran nuclear threat, and I don’t have any new advice for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about what actions he should or should not take as he and his government face an impossible dilemma.

But I do know that the mainstream press (and especially The New York Times) has had a steady drumbeat of reports these last few weeks characterizing Israel unfairly in the delicate diplomatic dance of Jerusalem, Washington and Tehran.

There are two deeply disturbing elements to these media reports. First, they downplay, or don’t even mention, that Israel’s possible military actions are based on the fact that the leadership of Iran consistently and passionately describes Israel as an evil, immoral country that should be erased from the planet.

Perhaps we’ve become numb to the threats because Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been calling for Israel’s destruction for so long. After all, when he describes Israel as Satan and as a cancer that must be eradicated, neither the United Nations nor any world leader outside of Jerusalem responds in any meaningful way. Yet much of the reporting about Israel planning to strike Iran assumes the reader knows the views of Tehran’s leaders, who deny the Holocaust and portray Jews as a menace to the world; why not tell us?

Second, the message and tone of these articles is that Israel is trigger-happy and planning to drag the U.S. into yet another war with an Islamic country.

One recent Times story, for example, based on “classified war games,” shows that if Israel attacks, Iran will retaliate against Navy warships in the region and kill hundreds of Americans.

The overall impression I come away with is that the administration is more worried about preventing its only democratic ally in the Mideast from taking military action than preventing a sworn and powerful enemy, Iran, from having a nuclear bomb that threatens not only the region but the U.S. and the free world.

I have come to believe, reluctantly, that the administration is leaking these stories to the press, which strongly suggests that the president views Israel as more of a nuisance than a partner regarding Iran, and perhaps the wider Mideast conflict.

No, I am not a member of the Obama-is-no-friend-of-Israel club.

Trust me, I know the arguments on both sides. Supporters of the president point to the fact that the military relationship between the U.S. and Israel has never been stronger, that last fall Obama stepped up and spoke out eloquently at the UN against the Palestinian Authority’s diplomatic effort to gain statehood; that in his AIPAC speech last month, the president came closer to Israel’s position on Iran, speaking out against containment, acknowledging that Iran represents a threat not only to Israel but to the Mideast region and the U.S., and noting that Israel has the sovereign right to defend itself as it sees fit.

All true, important and very much welcome.

I also believe that the president’s record on Israel is decidedly mixed. He stumbled badly from the starting gate, thinking he could solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by making settlements the focal point of negotiations six weeks into his tenure in the White House. If nothing else, the pressure on Israel to halt settlement construction wasted two years of precious time, made Jerusalem increasingly cautious about White House’s support and convinced the Palestinian Authority to stay away from the peace talks until Israel stopped all settlement activity, which was never a criteria for negotiating before.

Thus, the lack of any peace talks, or hope, at the moment.

I have come to view Obama as neither the enemy of Israel some in our community make him out to be, based more on their projected fears than his actions, nor “the Jewish president” Peter Beinart describes him as in his book, “The Crisis of Zionism,” as a leader driven by a liberal Zionist agenda. I also don’t see Obama as “Israel’s best friend” and perhaps the best president ever for Israel, as Tom Friedman has written in his New York Times column, based on how Obama framed the Iran situation in his AIPAC speech.

In my view, Obama is a supporter of Israel, but a less than enthusiastic one.

Fairly or not, I base some of my impressions of presidents on my kishkes, on an internal feeling. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, different as they were in so many ways, shared a deep and personal connection to Israel, perhaps based on their Christian views. You trusted their instincts, if not their policies. And I think Israelis sensed that. In the same way, I think they view Obama as a cool rationalist who doesn’t share that emotional attachment to the Jewish state. Israel is an ally, yes. But maybe more like Taiwan is an ally. We still support Taiwan, but would we go to war with China over its future?

These questions and impressions are so important now because Israel has to decide very soon whether or not to trust Obama with its very existence.

The president has sought to assure Israelis that he has their back. It’s clear, though, he wants more time for the increasingly tough sanctions he helped place on Iran to take effect, and to try another round of negotiations, which many view as a waste of time while Iran rushes to complete a nuclear weapon. His reluctance to become involved in a third costly war in the Muslim world is more than understandable.

But Obama’s timetable is not Israel’s, strategically or politically. Israel believes that a military action must be carried out before Iran reaches what Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak calls the “zone of immunity” — Iran’s capability to complete the bomb out of striking range — while Obama talks about not allowing Iran to have the bomb itself.

Big difference there, especially if you are Israel and the presumed target.

And while Obama wants to get past the November election before making a difficult decision — note his “open mic” chat last week with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev — the Israelis feel they have only a few months to act. Plus they no doubt take into the equation that if Obama is re-elected, it will be that much more difficult to get him on board.

I’m not at all convinced that Israel has decided to strike Iran on its own. Mainly because the government is well aware of the huge risks at stake, from the potentially devastating retaliation that is sure to come, to jeopardizing future relations with Washington. In addition, in the past when Israel prepared to take such a bold action, like bombing the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 or the Syrian one being built, in 2007, it didn’t talk about it in advance. It just acted.

Perhaps all the talk about a strike is meant to scare Iran and pressure the U.S. to lead the way.

In the meantime, the tension is building and the leaders of Israel are facing a “Lady or the Tiger” moment, deciding whether to go it alone or take Obama at his word that he truly has their back.

Gary@jewishweek.org

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Comments

I, as a Democratic, liberal Jew who voted for him in 2008 living in Ohio, will not make the same mistake twice. He's definitely not pro-Israel and I could not live myself supporting him again, especially if he permitted Iran to obtain nuclear weapons and they were used against Israel. My hands will not be dripping with Jewish blood and I will not aid and abet in the destruction of Israel by voting for Obama again!! This is one liberal , Democratic Jew voting Republican in 2012.

considering how pro-obama this newspaper has been up until now, for an article doubting obama's committment to israel to be displayed in a prominent space is welcome to me. i've never been as trusting of his intentions towards israel as the jewish week has been and unfortunately have seen nothing in the last three years to make me trust him. if he is reelcted i have no doubt that israel will get no support from him at all, and calling anyone racist for not being pro-obama is just nonsense.

My family, all sides, has been in North America for over 300 years. Several lines have and still, keep many ancient Hebrew traditions. It has taken me 60 years to find my roots, but I have, both by research and by DNA.
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Having studied the books of Moses and of the prophets, having viewed political actions in my own lifetime, having watched all actions and inactions of the US, the UN and Israel in the past as well as the present, I have concluded that Israel as a nation and Jews as the judicial family of our forefather Jacob/Israel, MUST depend on no one and no nation for help.
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History has proven that although many promises have been made, are being made and may in the future be made, actions and not words should be considered as valid. G-d has spoken by the prophets, has been continually proven by history, and has stated that He and He alone will redeem His chosen People, the people chosen to keep and teach His commandments to all of humanity.
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I am not saying not to accept help when offered. I am saying, do not depend on it. By the prophets, not one of the family of Jacob/Israel will in these days uphold the family of Judah. The whole house of Israel is being attacked though many do not even recognize it. We are a House divided, but the House of Judah MUST survive, for all of us.

Obzma is an excellent president. He is the best friend Israel has ever had. I am shocked to see such blind disregard to all he's done for Israel. This hate filled paranoia against our nations first black president is deeply troubles my soul.

You make me sick. Obama is the worst pres we have ever had. And you probably voted for him just cuz hes black. He promises and then does the exact oposite. Its people like you who are destroying the usa. Open your eyes to the facts.

Dear Mr. Rosenblatt,

I don't think you said one new thing or one thing that
was journalistically of interest. It was quite a parve
piece that you wrote! In the end, did you say anything?

How tragic that so many understand so little, which is the reaction I get from reading most of the comments. Obama has never been a friend to Israel and you would be well advised that once this President who will say anything to get elected is elected (G-d forbid) he will turn his back on Israel and do what he can to destabilize the Middle East. Presidents of the United States do not bow to Middle Eastern potentates (Saudi) or embrace socialists (Venezuela). Israel should show great caution as to the attacking of Iran but must not depend on this administration for support. As I recall, Hitler, too, espoused over and over on dead ears his annihilation intentions for the Jews of Europe. No one, including most of the Jews of Europe, ever believed that words could become a reality. What Ahmadinejad is doing is strategic and purposeful. His goal is to numb and lull. Repeat, repeat, repeat without action so that the world believes that you are only espousing words. Then, when nuclear armament is in their hands and a reality. We Jews, will be forced to rely on the good will of those that hate us. The day of reckoning will come and we will find that perhaps words are no longer just words.

I believe there is a simple test to prove the sincerity and seriousness of both Iran and President Obama in the forthcoming negotiations (for negotiation, it would seem): Iran should immediately halt all work on its nuclear program immediately, to last until the conclusion of negotiations. This is the only way to stop Iran from gaining what might be an irremedial advantage during that period. It is the only fair way for two honest opponents to negotiate and the highly intelligent president of the U. S. knows this. Anything less is simply dishonest posturing meant to favor Iran - and our president knows it.

Henry Sherman

As a Jewish American, I trust Mr. Obama and the former head of Mossad more than Mr. Netanyahu, and I don't think that Mr. Roseblatt's "kiskhes" count for much.

Dear Mr. Rosenblatt;

The fact that you the editior of a open minded community Jewish newspaper can openly question the committment of the Obama Administration to Israel should send shock waves through out the entire Jewish community. I also believe that 5 minutes after President Obama gets re-elected he will nail Israel to the wall and there will be nothing the Jewish community can do except block his moves in Congress where the budget is decided. The fact that some of the talkbackers can blame only Israel for the problems of the Middle East just shows how deep the sickness of self hate is in the community.

"President Obama gets re-elected"

How you talk!

Heaven save us!!!!!!!!!!

Hopefully Obama will not 'save Israel'; Israel can save itself all by itself not by starting a world war but by changing its fascist policies. It is not anti-Semitic to say this, there are plenty of Jewish Israelis and Jewish non-Israelis who would agree that if Israel wants to be saved then it should clear out of the occupied territories and start behaving as if it belonged to the human race. Your likud supporting paper does not help or encourage Israel to take the right decisions and does a diservice to the Jewish people as a whole.

... and there are plenty of Black or African Americans who use the word "N*gger" - so what does that prove? Yes, your words *are* in fact anti-Semitic. That's fine, as long as *you* know it, and the rest of us tell you that *we* know it too. There are many anti-Smites in the world who, like you, get their kicks at playing the "tough-love friend of Israel" -- you are one in a long long list of many far more famous ones (I'm af4raind, you won't stick out very far in that crowd).

To put it bluntly: there are many Jews who will say FAR worse things than you did about Israel. And you know what: they are anti-Semitic as well. Yeah, it may seem weird, but the same standard must be used across the board., right?

Don't worry, you have much company, Anonymous!

-- FF

The question is can Israel be trusted to save Israel? The answer is clearly no. The Occupation, the growing gap in wealth, gender violence, racial discrimination and environmental degradation and again... Israel demonstrates its refusal for peace, its hubris to the US etc... what can, we as Israelis, expect... And beyond that, the AIPAC led fundamentalist orthodoxy of Israel as religion serves only the ultra-right wing which is Ironic, is it not?

The circumstantial evidence is that president Obama not a friend of Israel .We have all heard the stories so there is no sense rehashing them . And that fact makes this a failure of diplomacy. President Obama could not make the relationship work with Netanyahu work because in his heart he is a supporter of the Palestinian cause . That is why there is such little trust in the Israeli government .Thus making it more likely that Israel will have to force Washington's hand and go before the election . Israel is now in the uncomfortable position of hoping he is not reelected . The logic being , If this is how he treats us now . What will he be like when he no longer needs Jewish votes . This makes the situation more dangerous .

What if Obama is neither pro-Israel or anti-Israel but simply pro-American? His allegiance is to this country, not Israel. His duty is to pursue the best interests of Americans, not the best interests of Israelis. Benjamin Netanyahu's foreign policy isn't predicated on what's best for America, so why should our president be guided by what's best for Israel? The problem isn't Obama, jk. The problem is Americans who won't reelect him because he's loyal to this country.

The American Jewish Community Is Still Solidly Behind Barack Obama http://p.ost.im/p/eq8J42

A Jew has to be crazy to support Obama. He never spoke out against the blatant anti-Semitism of the “Occupy Wall Street” crowd. He supported the ouster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who maintained a decent, stable relationship with Israel; now that the Muslim Brotherhood has taken over, Israel’s safety has been greatly compromised, exactly as Obama knew it would. With regard to Iran, Obama talks, but never seriously rebukes Ahmadinejad. I could go on and on, but it should be obvious that our president is no friend to the Jewish people. That many Jews continue to support him has baffled some of the greatest thinkers. It seems to me that his Jewish supporters automatically vote Democratic without allowing their minds to open enough for them to see what’s really going on.

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