Thursday, November 17, 2011

Obama, friend of Israel

Some Republicans say that Obama has not been a good (or good-enough) friend of Israel.  I’ve heard this quite often, but there was a lot of it in September around the time of the U.N. Security Council meeting. 

Here’s what was said on the CNN Opinion Page at that time:

Gov. Rick Perry unleashed an onslaught against President Obama's Israel policy Tuesday in New York, calling it "moral equivalency," "appeasement," "naive and arrogant, misguided and dangerous." ... deepening the narrative that Obama is hell-bent on alienating our closest allies, secretly sides with Muslims in the Middle East and has broken with decades of U.S. policy to do so. On cue, a second spin-driven news-cycle appeared: "Will Obama lose the Jewish vote in 2012?"

The Christian Science Monitor called Perry’s speech “a pitch for Jewish votes.”  After quoting at length from Perry’s remarks, the Monitor went on:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, running in second place for the GOP nomination, also blamed Obama for the Palestinian bid for recognition at the UN.

“What we are watching unfold at the United Nations is an unmitigated diplomatic disaster,” Mr. Romney said in a statement. “It is the culmination of President Obama’s repeated efforts over three years to throw Israel under the bus and undermine its negotiating position.”

Have you noticed that when people hear the same thing over and over again, they come to think it’s the truth?  That’s what’s happened with the Obama-enemy-of-Israel storyline.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was interviewed on Charlie Rose Tuesday night.  It was a fascinating interview in many respects, but Barak’s unsolicited and passionate defense of the Obama Administration really struck me.  I urge you to watch (or listen) but here’s the excerpt I’m referring to:

CHARLIE ROSE: Let me switch to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Where is that? You had this effort to get statehood going through the Security Council. There is some speculation that they cannot get nine votes and the United States will have to veto it. Is that your reading of where they are?

EHUD BARAK: Yes. I think that the attempt to which the U.N. Security Council failed, it failed as a result of American huge diplomatic effort. And the fact that this Administration as some people question their commitment to Israel, I think the opposite showed the readiness and signaled the readiness to veto it if the necessary. And that’s something which I would not have taken for granted and we highly appreciate it.

CHARLIE ROSE: So you’re saying that the Obama Administration contrary to the opinion of some people in the American-Jewish community that this Administration has not been pro-Israel, that they have been very pro-Israel and very helpful to Israel at important moments. And that you -- underlying -- you are not saying that or you are saying that?

EHUD BARAK: I’m saying very clearly that this Administration in regard to Israel’s security and we’re traditionally supported by any American -- each and every American president throughout the generation. But this, under this Administration we went even further into a clear, deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel and beyond. I see them ready, the Administration is ready to veto steps which somewhat go against or perceived by us being against the interest of Israel.

And I still remember very vividly, weekend night, quite dramatic one in Cairo and hundreds of demonstrators entered into the embassy. It was, we went in many channels but one of them was the Administration. I called Panetta --

CHARLIE ROSE: You called Leon Panetta?

EHUD BARAK: Yes. He called --

CHARLIE ROSE: Defense minister to defense minister?

EHUD BARAK: Yes. And he called President Obama. And the American administration put its weight to the utmost extent in order to make sure that it will end up properly which really it did. So I would not under estimate the commitment not to Israel, not to the struggle against (INAUDIBLE).

I should remind you that for those who think that this Administration has been -- go and ask Osama bin Laden, go and ask the Haqqanis. Go ask a dozen of other kind of quite pretentious leaders whom you cannot contact today because of the readiness of this Administration to take action. Not just to talk but at the right moment to take action.

And I spent my lifetime in uniform not in TV interviews but doing things with my own hands. I know to appreciate this.

The transcript doesn’t come close to conveying the passion in Barak’s voice.  And notice – Rose didn’t ask him about Perry’s specific comment, or even raise the issue.  Barak raised it himself, and then went on at length to defend the Obama Administration.

If you are one of my readers whose friends complain that Obama isn’t enough of a friend to Israel, please share the Barak/Rose interview.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks, Sandy. I'm not at all surprised by this. Israel knows that the US is trying to look after their interests, but also to move toward a future where Palestine also has its soverign place--but with a workable relationship with Israel and security for both. Israel may not like support of a Palestinian state and the concessions that will be required to get there, but they know the US will be a reliable ally and have their back while the agenda of peace and two peaceful states continues to be pursued. But I do believe that the US will and must continue to push all sides for the elusive two-state solution--but one that will work. We're just not there yet.

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