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Posted at 01:54 PM ET, 11/16/2011

Obama, Israel and the dilemma of pro-Israel Democrats

In response to my post concerning President Obama’s “open mic” episode and the lack of trust between Israel’s prime minister and the U.S. president, Jeffrey Goldberg writes: “Rubin, like many of her colleagues to my right, believes that [Benjamin] Netanyahu is the living embodiment of the State of Israel. Her formula: If you dislike Netanyahu, you dislike Israel.”

The inability or refusal to state an opponent’s position fairly and accurately is a sign of intellectual weakness, and Goldberg’s post is weak indeed.

The point that I made is that, as Israel’s elected leader, Bibi Netanyahu deserves the respect and courtesy of other leaders, especially Israel’s closest ally. Israelis can criticize him to their heart’s content. The president can rail at him in private, but the public show of enmity for a democratic ally’s elected leader is beyond the pale. That statement is so self-evident that Goldberg’s refusal to recognize it suggests the degree to which President Obama’s stance on the Jewish state has flummoxed pro-Israel Democrats.

As for Goldberg’s contention that “Barack Obama has shown zero animus to the state of Israel or to the idea of Israel,” he surely must be joking. Obama has “condemned” — Obama’s word — the Jewish state for building in its capital, something every prime minister has done and which was never cause for a public meltdown by the U.S. president. Obama has refused to recognize a preexisting agreement between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, one confirmed by both houses of Congress, with regard to settlements. Obama publicly undercut Israel’s bargaining position on borders (without an equivalent demand for the Palestinians to give up the right of return). And as for the assertion that Obama “and his administration have risen to Israel’s defense repeatedly, most recently at the United Nations,”surely Goldberg must remember the unprecedented screed by Ambassador Susan Rice in the U.N. Security Council.

And notice the double negative from Goldberg that “there is no proof at all to suggest that he would not aid Israel in its national defense because he finds its current leader tendentious.” Whatever sentence construction he deploys, Goldberg doesn’t have the facts on his side. A series of public comments from Obama’s advisers have warned how “destabilizing” and “disruptive” military action against Iran would be. There is Obama’s aversion of late to even repeating the platitudes that “all options are on the table” and that a nuclear-armed Iran would be “unacceptable.” To put it mildly, there is good reason for Israel to fret.

Even Goldberg falters in his conclusion (my emphasis added). “I believe that Obama is trying to stop the mullahs from developing nuclear weapons, and I believe he would contemplate the use of force if he believes this to be in America’s national interest — and America’s national interest in this case includes the defense of its Middle East allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, most notably. Do I think this is probable? No. But it is certainly plausible.”

Contemplate it? Plausible? Good grief. Not exactly what an Israeli prime minister would take to the bank, is it?

As for the obligation of the “junior partner (defense aid flows in only one direction here) to work harder to repair the relationship,” what would Goldberg have Netanyahu do? Commit to a settlement freeze? Confirm a commitment to a two-state solution? Ignore the “unity government” and agree even after Mahmoud Abbas’s U.N. gambit to negotiate with the man who continues to cheer terrorists and foment Holocaust denial? Netanyahu has done all of those things.

Goldberg personifies the extent to which many on the left will go to convince themselves that Obama is a trustworthy and capable friend of Israel. Israel does not have the luxury of such self-delusion, and that is precisely why it must proceed with the assumption it may need to act militarily. Perhaps when confronted with that reality, the leader of the free world can be persuaded to recognize that U.S. action is preferable and less risky than an Israeli operation and to assume his responsibility for defusing a threat to the region, to Israel and to the West. But let’s not kid ourselves that he’s been a stalwart friend of the Jewish state.

By  |  01:54 PM ET, 11/16/2011

Categories:  American Jews, Israel

 
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