The White House and its spinners keep insisting everything is fine, just fine between Israel and the U.S. and between the White House and the American Jewish community. But they sure are having a lot of “reassurance” meetings and fundraisers. The most recent came Monday night when 80 fat cats (the results were “good,” we were told, which is sort of like being told your blind date is “nice”) shelled out more than $25,000 a pop to hear Obama talk about his record on Israel. The Associated Press reported, “Obama assured donors that his goals are the same as theirs — a secure Jewish state living in peace with its neighbors — even if there might be ‘tactical disagreements’ along the way.” The AFP observed:
“What is also going to be true is that both the United States and Israel are going to have to look at this new landscape with fresh eyes,” Obama said, arguing the Arab Spring had changed the context of regional diplomacy.
“It’s not going to be sufficient for us just to keep on doing the same things we’ve been doing and expect somehow that things are going to work themselves out.
“We’re going to have to be creative and we’re going to have to be engaged. We’re going to have to look for opportunities where the best impulses in the Middle East come to the fore and the worst impulses are weakened.”
“There are going to be moments over the course of the next six months or the next 12 months or the next 24 months in which there may be tactical disagreements in terms of how we approach these difficult problems,” Obama said, vowing to bring to bear his administration’s “creative powers” for peace.
The president said that Israel and the United States were united on a broader vision for a secure Jewish state able to live in peace with its neighbors “where kids can get on the bus or go to bed at night and not have to worry about missiles landing on them.”
Obama ignited the latest US row with Netanyahu last month when he said in public what had been private US policy, that 1967 territorial lines, with agreed land swaps should be used to demarcate Israel from a future Palestinian state. . . . Israel and the Palestinians have been at loggerheads over negotiations, which halted shortly after they were relaunched in Washington in September 2010 when a partial freeze on Israeli settlement construction expired.
Most telling, and most defensive, were the comments reported by Politico: “At one point, Obama said he was surprised by the reaction to his May 19 Middle East speech.” Frightful that he has not a clue what his words mean to informed domestic and international listeners. Obama also acknowledged he needed to “clarify” his comments regarding borders. But of course they were all “reassured.” They are paying him to be reassured. When you plunk down that kind of cash you don’t want to be told you’ve put your money on the wrong horse.
There was no more pathetic expression of that than this: “Marilyn Victor, a supporter at the fundraiser, characterized the attitude of Jewish donors thusly: ‘We support you, but we’re a little insecure, so make us secure.’ ” Translation: “Oh, please tell us a nice bubbe meise [old wives’ tale] so we can feel better about voting for you despite your Israel policy!” But at least someone there had an ounce of self-awareness: “The supporters at the event described the atmosphere as receptive and engaging, with the crowd applauding Obama throughout. But asked how often Obama was cheered, one person who didn’t want to be identified joked, ‘Not as many times as Congress applauded Netanyahu.’ ”
A Capitol Hill staffer rolled his eyes, cracking, “Why don’t the liberal Jewish donors just cut out the middle-man and write their checks directly to Abu Mazen [Mamoud Abbas] since the President is the performing the job of the chief negotiator of the PA.” Ouch.
There are a few take-aways from this. First, let’s dispense with the fiction that these liberal donors or their liberal communal “leaders” at White House briefings are accurate interpreters of Obama’s Middle East policy. They are in the business of self-delusion (make us feel better!). Second, they and the communal leaders who run interference for the Obama White House risk their own reputations and credibility on Israel. One way or another, Obama will leave office, and then what? Their support for this administration will remain, frankly, a reminder of the degree to which they put Israel at the bottom of their political priority list.
Third, the press has an obligation when taking comments from these people, or any other interested party, to explain to readers where they are coming from and why they are being sent out to talk to the media. (Even in this instance, according to Politico, the individuals who talked to the media were selected by the Obama team.) Fourth, it’s getting impossible for Jewish and mainstream reporters and pundits to argue with a straight face (well, then again, maybe they have no compunction about manning the spin squad) that all is well between Israel and the U.S. and between Obama and the Jewish community. If $25,000 donors ( i.e., the diehard Democrats) need to be reassured, what must the rest of the community be thinking?