Because some of his best friends are Jewish, and he’s read about it. Plus, he loves matzo ball soup and has seen Fiddler on the Roof a hundred times. Okay, so the last two aren’t actually things the president said, but the first two are. Nice pickup from Weekly Standard of a Haaretz item on Obama’s meeting with 20 Conservative Jewish community leaders:
I not going to tell you again how I even feel about Israel, but why we still talking about it,”Obama said, reminding his guests that all his friends in Chicago were Jewish – and at the beginning of his political career he was accused of being a puppet of the Israel lobby.
In the Senate, he said, his support for Israel’s qualitative military edge has been unwavering.
Obama added that people judged his support for Israel because of the differences between a center right government in Israel and center-left in the U.S. – because he pressed Netanyahu too hard in his belief that it’s time to seize the moment and pursue peace initiative.
Obama also stressed he probably knows about Judaism more than any other president, because he read about it – and wondered how come no one asks Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner or Senate minority leader Mitch McConnel about their support to Israel.
So why do people think the president is hostile to Israel? Because the Republicans are painting him as a muslim, that’s why. From Ynet:
During the meeting, Obama told the rabbis that when he was running for Senate some accused him of being the Jewish lobby’s “puppet” because of his many Jewish associates in Chicago. Now, he said, the Republicans are trying to portray him as not being supportive of Israel by stressing the fact that his father was Muslim and he has a Muslim name, as well as by claiming that he had been overly aggressive in pushing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to promote the peace process with the Palestinians.
In this story we get a twofer of POTUS rhetorical tics: Blaming every failure of his presidency on his last name, Republicans, and/or racism, and casually inserting himself into the pantheon of great presidents. If he had only pled with the Jewish leaders to let him be clear, I would have hit my Trifecta box.