Folks are still talking about President Obama’s jabs about horses and bayonets and about how “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back.” But when Republican nominee Mitt Romney hit Obama for not visiting Israel, the president had a powerful response.
Bob, let me respond. If we’re going to talk about trips that we’ve taken — when I was a candidate for office, the first trip I took was to visit our troops. And when I went to Israel as a candidate, I didn’t take donors, I didn’t attend fundraisers. I went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum there, to remind myself the nature of evil and why our bond with Israel will be unbreakable.
And then I went down to the border town of Sderot, which had experienced missiles raining down from Hamas. And I saw families there who showed me where missiles had come down near their children’s bedrooms, and I was reminded of what that would mean if those were my kids — which is why, as President, we funded an Iron Dome program to stop those missiles. So that’s how I’ve used my travels, when I traveled to Israel and when I traveled to the region.
When Obama went to Israel as a candidate, he went to show his solidarity with the Jewish state, and he went to learn and understand the reality of what life is like surrounded by enemies bent on that nation’s destruction. It was a powerful moment that should pop this silly notion that the president hates Israel.
Jonathan Alter disagreed with me when I made this point earlier on “Martin Bashir.” He said that Obama made a mistake by not going to Israel as president. I can’t argue with that. The president should have gone.
As with most things with this president, he prefers to let his actions speak louder than words. Folks might harp on the symbolism of a presidential visit. But when it comes to taking concrete steps to ensure Israel’s security, Obama has been like every other president that preceded him, a staunch ally.