The Corner

National Security & Defense

What Obama Thinks of Israel

Is President Obama reassessing America’s stance toward Israel because of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s congressional address and campaign statements? Or is Obama simply using Netanyahu’s actions as pretexts to undercut an American-Israeli alliance that he has never truly supported to begin with?

NR’s editors suggest that Obama has largely “manufactured” the current crisis in the special relationship between America and Israel. John Podhoretz argues that Obama is twisting Netanyahu’s words to create a wedge between liberal American Jews and Israel: “a wedge to give him space to make a major policy pivot from the special relationship—one for which he has hungered since he came into office.”

What’s that? Despite his many protestations to the contrary, did Obama enter the presidency yearning to weaken the alliance between Israel and the United States? Has Obama been gunning for a battle with Israel like the one we’re seeing now from day one?

Yes. Obama’s break with Israel was both predictable and predicted. Of course it’s easy enough to point back to the years of anti-Israel fulmination Obama sat through in Rev. Wright’s church, or his friendship with prominent Palestinians like Rashid Khalidi, and then say that Obama was tight with critics of Israel. The comeback is always that Obama was simply doing what any politician in leftist Hyde Park had to do. Besides, there are years of strong statements from Obama of support for Israel as well.

In 2011, I took a detailed look at the history of Barack Obama’s ties with Palestinian critics of Israel and carefully tried to assess how sincere his support might have been. Much of the material I discussed had gone unnoticed until then, including a promise to work toward changes in U.S. policy toward Israel that can’t help but bring to mind Obama’s pledge to Putin that he’d have more “flexibility” after re-election.

I concluded that Obama’s core image of himself on matters of foreign policy, as well as decades of deep personal ties to critics of Israel, would have been far harder to fake than a few years of pro-Israel speeches before AIPAC conferences. I also predicted that when it comes to Israel, we’d see the real Obama emerge after re-election. As on so many other issues, the Obama of today is far closer to the Obama of the mid-1990s than the “post-partisan” Obama who sought the presidency in 2008.

For a detailed look at the still poorly-understood history of Obama’s stance toward Israel, consider “Pro-Palestinian-in-Chief.” In light of this history, very little that’s happening now is surprising.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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