The Jewish Press » » THE HOSTILITY OF A UNITED STATES PRESIDENT
For those who carried any lingering doubts regarding President Obama’s true feelings toward Israel’s elected leadership and its geo-political concerns, Obama’s recent actions and pronouncements demonstrate both his transparent hostility toward newly re-elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his seeming indifference toward issues of monumental concern for Israel and the Jewish people. For astute observers of this President, his positions come as no surprise. Over the last few days and weeks, where Obama threatened a “reassessment” of US-Israel relations following Netanyahu’s landslide election victory, and where his National Security Advisor Susan Rice called Netanyahu’s clarion speech to Congress and the American people against a bad nuclear deal with Iran “destructive of the fabric of the [US-Israel] relationship,” the current US executive leadership is taking the relationship in the downward spiral they’ve seemingly always sought to go.
*(warming to readers: the author did not use any paragraph breaks in this piece!)
How did we get to this point? As a candidate for President, Obama famously declared in a 2008 speech to Ohio Jewish leaders, “I think there is a strain within the pro-Israel community that says unless you adopt a unwavering pro-Likud approach to Israel, that you’re anti-Israel, and that can’t be the measure of our friendship with Israel. If we cannot have a honest dialogue about how do we achieve these goals, then we’re not going to make progress.” How does Obama define a “pro-Likud” approach to Israel? What is it about Israel’s dominant ruling party for decades, including the people of Israel’s election of Benjamin Netanyahu on four separate occasions to be the nation’s prime minister from the Likud party, that so irks this president? Even Obama’s Vice President, Joe Biden, recently entered the fray, declaring to a Jewish Federation gathering that while he’s known Netanyahu for over 30 years, there’s not a “damn thing” he agrees with him on. That is not a comforting thought. Since the rise of Menachem Begin in the late 1970’s, Likud’s approach has been grounded in the rights of the Jewish people to reside in our ancestral homeland, including reclaiming our religious holy places; it’s been an approach that takes an unrelenting stand against those who terrorize or threaten our people; yet it has also continuously extended a hand toward peaceful co-existence with Israel’s neighbors when such a peace is truly possible. From the days of his candidacy for President in 2008, and continuing on since then, he telegraphed an antipathy toward the special status Israel enjoyed with the United States. In a meeting at the White House with the President, longtime Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, told the president that “If you want Israel to take risks, then its leaders must know that the United States is right next to them.” The president rejected that notion, incredulously claiming that the eight years of the Bush administration’s closeness with Israel did not yield anything. “What did we get from that? Where there is no daylight, Israel just sits on the sidelines, and that erodes our credibility with the Arab states.” Oh really! Eight years of sitting on the sidelines, doing nothing? Taking no risks for peace? Is that what Obama concluded after watching Israel defeat a murderous Intifada early in the Bush presidency that took the lives of hundreds of Israeli civilians, and saw President Bush dismiss Yasser Arafat as a complete obstacle to peace; after watching Israel take an enormous risk for peace by withdrawing from Gaza, only to then watch the Palestinians elect a genocidal movement in Hamas? Is the president that oblivious to the challenges that Israel has long faced and continues to face? The editors of the influential Commentary magazine recently summarized their feelings on Obama this way: The relationship between the United States and Israel is in jeopardy because, from the moment his administration began, Barack Obama has consciously, deliberately, and with malice aforethought sought to jeopardize it. He did so in part because he is committed to the idea that Israel must retreat to its 1967 borders, dismantle its settlements, and will a Palestinian state into existence. He views Israel’s inability or unwillingness to do these things as a moral stain. Commentary magazine also finds that Obama despises Israel’s leading role in attempting to thwart the pending P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) nuclear deal with Iran, wherein Obama has sought to marginalize Netanyahu’s concerns, has showered the unrepentant and genocidal Iran with promises of rejoining the “family of nations,” and just recently dismissed Netanyahu’s principled recommendations for a better and more verifiable nuclear deal as offering “nothing new.” The indifferent and dismissive attitude toward Israeli sacrifice and concern from Obama and his administration was epitomized early on, in 2009, by their position on an issue they inherited from the Bush administration. Relying on concrete assurances from President Bush, memorialized in an open Presidential 2004 letter sent from Bush to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, of the US “steadfast commitment to Israel’s security, including secure, defensible borders in accordance with UNSC Resolutions 242 and 338, [and] in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centers [in the disputed territories], it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” Sharon undertook the difficult disengagement from Gaza. According to Elliott Abrams, who handled Middle East affairs at the National Security Council under President Bush, the Bush letter recognized that in any realistic peace agreement, Israel would be able to keep major settlement blocks that already existed, and not need to return to the indefensible lines from prior to the Six Day War. Further understandings allowed Israel to continue to expand settlements within certain defined areas. These parameters were referenced in the New York Times in August 2004. Once in office, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton quickly disavowed the existence of any such commitment from the United States to Israel, declaring that “no informal or oral enforceable agreements” existed. Obama and Clinton stood smugly content that Israel had been hoodwinked into handing over Gaza to the murderous Hamas, unable to rely on the continued full faith and credit of the United States for taking such a monumental risk for peace. Over the past few years, Obama and his administration have been content with milder forms of humiliation toward Netanyahu, like having him enter the side door of the White House during an official visit, having him sit alone in the West Wing as the President took care of other business elsewhere in the residence, and offering condescending and demeaning interviews about him to their preferred journalist, Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, as the prime minister was either enroute to Washington or just departing. The administration also shockingly dismissed Netanyahu’s protestations about continuing to negotiate with putative Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas after he entered a unity government with Hamas, a militant Islamic movement whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of Jews. The animosity became much more personal and dangerous this past summer, wherein Israel fought a fifty day war against these same Hamas terrorists, who were launching thousands of indiscriminate rockets from Gaza at Israeli cities and towns, and had burrowed hundreds of terror tunnels inside Israel in order to capture and kill Israeli civilians. This was the same Gaza territory that Israel withdrew from years prior, as a test case for Palestinian peaceful intentions. Instead of just championing Israel for valiantly fighting a war against an enemy who had no regard for either Jewish or Arab life, the US administration went out of its way to nitpick and criticize virtually any errant Israeli military offensive while the war was ongoing, offering at times a moral equivalence between the warring parties. It then took the drastic measure of purposefully delaying the resupply of weaponry for the Israel Defense Forces. Netanyahu had seen enough of Palestinian duplicity, their glorification of terror and their denial of Jewish history in the Land of Israel. Despite a landmark speech at Bar Ilan University several years back, wherein Netanyahu said he could accept the presence of a Palestinian state within the Land of Israel, he never wavered on the conditions that would be necessary for such a state to come into being. The Palestinians would have to renounce terror, would have to accept that Israel was not returning to the indefensible borders that existed prior to the 1967 Six Day War, would have to agree to a demilitarized state with firm security guarantees for Israel and would have to accept that Israel was the nation state of the Jewish people. The Palestinians, through word and deed, never accepted any of these conditions. They preferred unity with Hamas, they denied any Jewish history in the Land of Israel, and they attacked Israel in international forum, all in violation of previous agreements. Leading up to his recent re-election as Prime Minister, Netanyahu declared that a two state solution, for the reasons just stated, was not currently feasible. Meeting the Palestinian demands and succumbing to their terror tactics would only make Israel more vulnerable and make future wars inevitable. He also declared, in a remarkable speech before Congress that the President and his surrogates sought in vain to delegitimize, the current nuclear deal being negotiated with Iran would only pave the way for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Instead of appreciating the severe security dilemma that Israel faced from all sides, including Iran’s terror proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, a maniacal Iranian leadership bent on destroying Jews and Israel, a Middle East where Islamic fanaticism is running rampant, and a Palestinian society never reconciled to accepting the Jews rightful place in its ancestral homeland, Obama stated that now was the time to reassess the US-Israel relationship. Obama was only taking the next logical step for what has been his inexplicable eight year road of disdain for a democratically elected leader. No one on the world’s stage, not Assad in Syria, not Rouhani in Iran, nor Morsi in Egypt warranted the use of expletive language against them, that has been hurled so cavalierly toward Benjamin Netanyahu from those in Obama’s inner circle. Netanyahu’s caution and concern on all fronts, finding Iran hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and concluding that the implementation of his two state vision at Bar Ilan was, for the time being, not feasible, was reason enough for Obama to seemingly jettison the US-Israel relationship. He and his spokespersons have declared in unison that “words matter,” and that, in particular, Netanyahu had now shut the door on a two state solution. With rare exception, no one in the media or in the president’s own Democratic Party sought to ask whether, in fact, it was the words, actions and inactions of the Palestinians themselves, and their international apologists, that had brought us to this point. One would think that the recent Gaza war never occurred, that Palestinian society never wanted Hamas in its presence, that the Palestinian leadership has been educating its people to accept Jews and Israel in its midst, and that a US federal district court had not recently found the Palestinian leadership liable for causing the murder of countless American citizens inside Israel. Israel has watched for the past years as the Obama administration and the international community has placed standards of behavior on all of the aforementioned actors, only to have those standards ignored. For example, In 2006, the UN Security Council under Resolution 1701 banned Hezbollah from acting within Lebanese territory as an armed group; UN Resolution 1696 demanded that Iran halt its uranium enrichment program, and the International Quartet demanded that the Palestinians renounce terror and accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. None of these requirements has come to fruition; rather, each of these security concerns for Israel have only been exacerbated. Words do matter. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a time when commitments made to Israel are quickly forgotten. We live in an age when UN Security Council resolutions are as worthless as the paper they are written on. Israel is learning the hard way that President Obama, who early on sought daylight between Israel and the United States administration, is seeing the self-fulfillment of those designs. But I take solace in the words of the prime minister when he spoke before the Congress of the United States, the embodiment of the people of this great and majestic nation. Israel knows that the Congress stands with the people of Israel and regardless of what happens Israel will continue to stand courageously and proudly.
*Charlie Miler is a criminal defense attorney residing in Woodmere, NY, with his wife and four children. He served in the United States Navy for six years on active duty as an officer in the Judge Advocate General ‘s Corps, including a year in the White House as a Military Aide to the President of the United States. He is a national board member with the National Council of Young Israel.