There is an old joke that if you have two Jews in a room you will have three opinions. But thanks to President Barack Obama, he has been able to accomplish what even Moses couldn’t do, create a consensus among Jews – well, at least Israeli Jews. They have by a strong majority united on one thing: They don’t like President Obama. A recent poll commissioned by the Begin Sadat Center at Bar Ilan University and the Anti-Defamation League revealed that only 32 percent of Israelis have a positive view of Obama as compared to 2009, when his likability among them was at 54 percent.
You see, Israelis tend to be a very action-oriented people, hence their ability to turn an arid desert into a high-tech verdant success in quick time. They know talk is cheap, promises have expiration dates, and words make for poor armament when rockets hit their towns and their buses are blowing up. As such, when the current American president says, “I have Israel’s back,” Israelis are not convinced.
Following the Gaza Flotilla incident, the president figuratively pushed Netanyahu off in a precarious dingy to surf the rough waves of international opprobrium alone. According to a Pechter Poll taken at the time, 63 percent of those polled in Israel were dissatisfied with the American government’s reaction to the incident, while only 3.1 percent were very satisfied.
But international waters are always uniquely rough on Israel and hardly split in two to offer easy passage.
Just last week the BBC refused to indicate that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital on the Olympics section of its website. The BBC was not alone. At a recent White House press briefing, when insistent journalists asked James Carney, Obama’s press secretary, what the White House considered Israel’s capital, Carney, adamantly evasive, refused six times to say Jerusalem. These weren’t shots at Israel’s back but shots straight through its heart.
Oh, but were these incidents isolated? In May of 2011, Obama unilaterally called for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement based on 1967 borders, borders universally acknowledged as indefensible. Here’s a quick geography lesson: Prior to 1967, Israel was nine miles wide at its narrowest point.
Then there was the whole issue of settlements in 2009 when Obama set preconditions for Israel even before negotiations with the Palestinians got started and objected to Israel accommodating for natural growth of its own people. This is the same president who wholeheartedly accommodates illegal immigrants into this country but doesn’t want Israelis to house its own citizens in its own country.
Perhaps it is the above that is eating away at the percentage points of the president’s likability among Israelis. Or maybe it is his mishandling of Iran, the Middle East powder-keg nation that has leveled an existential threat at Israel, threatening to erase the Jewish homeland from the globe. Just this Monday, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta finally conceded that sanctions haven’t yet worked in forcing Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Adding to his ill-conceived diplomatic attempts to posit the U.S. as an honest broker in the Middle East, there are many who feel the president threw longtime ally Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak under the bus. By his weak leadership he has helped install a new enemy on Israel’s borders, the Muslim Brotherhood, which views past peace agreements as merely bad literature.
Furthermore, as if the Middle East isn’t precarious enough, Obama’s lack of leadership on the Syrian crisis now leaves chemical weapon stockpiles in a vulnerable position with potential use against Israel. Obama asked Israel not to intercede; Israelis are now rushing to get government-issue gas masks.
While some will say that there has never been greater military aid given to Israel and never greater security cooperation between the two countries, others are more wary, believing that the president is trying to pull strings and restrain Israel despite his largesse. But it must be noted that America’s commitment to help Israel preserve its qualitative military edge was already the modus operandi between the two countries, as was the understanding that Israel has the inherent right to self-defense. Would NOT signing the bipartisan legislation really have been an option for the president in an election year?
Then there are also the “little” things that make us wonder how the president really feels about the Jewish homeland:
- He is the same president who, thinking his mic was off, was caught in November of 2011 saying disparaging remarks about Netanyahu to France’s President Sarkozy.
- He has literally bowed before many a world leader and hosted a state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao, but the prime minister of Israel was left waiting for an hour while the president went off to eat dinner with the first family. The White House also avoided releasing a photo-op with Netanyahu for four days.
- He has never gone to Israel as president.
- As president he went to Egypt to address the Muslim world in a speech where he juxtaposed the plight of the Palestinians with black slavery and equated it with the Jewish Holocaust.
- His first formal TV interview as president was with an Arab newscast, Al Arabiya.
- Prior to his presidency, he toasted his friend, pro-Palestinian Rashid Khalidi, at what was said to be an event where Obama allegedly condoned Rashid’s work. The tape of that event is being guarded by the Los Angeles Times with the vigilance of Fort Knox. If there is nothing condemning on that tape, why won’t the Los Angeles Times release it?
- While positing an affinity for the Jewish state, this is still the same president who sat in a church for 20 years wherein anti-Zionism was spewed from the pulpit and where church bulletins featured anti-Israel articles by Hamas’s Mousa Abu Marzook and The Nation of Islam. It is a long time to sit in a pew if you don’t share the view.
- The first time Obama attended an AIPAC gathering prior to his presidency, he said in no uncertain terms that Jerusalem should remain the undivided capital of Israel. The applause was thunderous. The next day, in a pivot Baryshnikov would envy, he modified his words.
Dear reader, the facts speak for themselves. These are many pieces of a puzzle that do not add up to a pretty picture of the president as regards the Jewish state of Israel. Remember, this next election is not the Super Bowl; it’s not a matter of rooting for your team. This next election is not about bumper stickers but rather about profound issues that will change the world we live in. There is nothing wrong with voting as an American and as a Jew who cares about the fate of the Jewish homeland. African-Americans, omosexuals, Hispanics and numerous other citizens vote proudly to defend their respective sects and interests – why can’t Jews be unabashed in taking their regard for their people into the voting booth as well? Maybe it’s time to ask a modified version of Golda Meir’s famous question: Do you hate Mitt Romney more than you love Israel? Now go cast your vote.