Politics & Policy

Obama, Israel, and the U.S.

Obama has weakened the U.S. relationship with Israel.

President Obama spoke to the annual meeting of the Union for Reform Judaism last week, and he gave them that ol’-time religion: liberalism. Not surprisingly, since Reform Judaism is, in Richard Brookhiser’s timeless phrase, “the Democratic party with holidays,” it was well-received.

While the audience in the hall purred appreciatively at the president’s invocation of the usual liberal bromides, Mr. Obama’s claims on the subject of his administration’s support of Israel — at least to those not blinkered by partisanship — are nothing short of jaw-dropping. “I am proud to say,” he told the group, “that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours. None. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. It is a fact.”

#ad#No, it’s an assertion, and it scarcely passes the laugh test.

Under his leadership, the president said, “We helped Israel develop a missile-defense system that’s already protecting civilians from rocket attacks.” That’s misleading. The U.S. has been cooperating with Israel on missile-defense technology since the Reagan administration. That President Obama continued the working relationship established and nurtured under his four predecessors is not noteworthy. It would have been extremely odd (not to say impossible in light of congressional views) if he had withdrawn from the partnership. Going with the flow is fine, but it hardly qualifies as an Obama initiative.

The president lauded his administration’s efforts to ensure that Israeli diplomats were “able to get out safely” when a mob attacked the Israeli embassy in Cairo. That the president made a phone call on behalf of Israel is very nice. But, really, it’s the very least an ally can do, isn’t it? Wouldn’t the president have made such a call for anyone, even for a nation with which we had no special bond? Is he suggesting that if Thai diplomats were menaced by a mob in a third country, he wouldn’t pick up the phone? Mark this one as trivial.

Then came the whopper. The president claimed that the U.S. has done everything possible to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Preposterous. Following a protracted attempt to court the Iranian mullahs, the administration settled for weak sanctions approved by the United Nations. The Obama Treasury department has undermined even those minimal sanctions by granting thousands of exemptions to companies doing business with Iran. And, as Jonathan Tobin of Commentary reminds us, the administration has vigorously opposed congressional efforts to impose serious sanctions, such as blackballing any entity that does business with Iran’s central bank.

Once again, as he and his representatives have done for three years, the president gave lip service to the idea that “all options are on the table” regarding Iran’s nuclear program. All empty clichés are on the table, obviously. But just a couple of weeks ago, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta made it very clear that the U.S. has no intention of using anything other than “diplomatic” pressure to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Panetta went further and emphasized that the U.S. would be heartily displeased if Israel were to attack Iran’s nuclear sites.

From the start of his presidency, Obama has attempted to distance the U.S. from Israel. It began with a unilateral demand that Israel halt all settlement activity before talks with the Palestinians could resume. It escalated with a U.N. speech in which the president drew equivalence between the Holocaust and the statelessness of the Palestinian people. It continued with the president’s enraged response to the decision by the Israeli government to build homes for Jews in the Jewish capital city. And it reached a new point of crisis when the president suggested that Israel should withdraw to the pre-1967 borders.

Under this administration, in a departure from decades of settled diplomacy, the U.S. has demanded that Israel sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. With the exception of a perfunctory condemnation of a gruesome Palestinian terror attack on a Jewish family, this administration has reserved all of its anger for Israel.

Above all, the Obama administration has failed to provide the kind of moral support that Israel needs now more than ever. Behind the scenes, military-to-military cooperation is fine. But the greatest threats to Israel are strategic (Iran’s nuclear ambitions) and political. From the U.N. to an increasingly anti-Israel Europe to the university campuses in this country, Israel’s very legitimacy is under relentless attack. The U.S. has traditionally been the bulwark against such delegitimization. Under Obama, the U.S. has, in Jeane Kirkpatrick’s phrase, “joined the jackals.”

Mona Charen is a nationally syndicated columnist. © 2011 Creators Syndicate, Inc.

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