Who will be next? It’s become a bit of a guessing game as to which prominent Jewish supporter/defender of the president’s Israel policy will be the next to break publicly with him.
The Republican Jewish Coalition has a $6.5 million ad campaign on “buyer’s remorse” by Democrats who are now appalled by President Obama’s treatment of the Jewish state. Aaron David Miller, who has served in Democratic administrations and previously offered praise for the president, now says Obama “is not in love with the idea of Israel.” Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union has privately and publicly defended the president, but he had enough when the president refused to admit Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.
Then yesterday, maybe Obama’s most vocal Zionist backer in 2008, former editor of the New Republic Marty Peretz, who went out on a limb to assure wavering Democrats of the president’s bona fides, lashed out in a scathing denunciation. In an interview in the Wall Street Journal, Peretz unloads on the Obama team’s “great self-deception” that “somehow the president’s tranquilizing words and theirs would bring honesty and reason to Russia, to China, to African tyrants and, their biggest bet, to the intersecting orbits of Arab states and Islamofascist mullahs.” His harshest words are for Obama’s stance toward Israel:
“Obama can’t visit Israel,” Mr. Peretz responds. “The Israeli public is uncontrollable. There would be a lot of unpleasantness. If he visited the Knesset — the Knesset is one of the most rambunctious parliaments in the world.”
Such rapprochement, moreover, is foreclosed by Mr. Obama’s indifference to the basic Zionist ideal, which was on full display in his 2009 Cairo speech to the Muslim world. There Mr. Obama cited the Holocaust — not millennia of Jewish ties to the land — as the basis for Israel’s legitimacy. “It took him three-and-a-half years to get to the point where he could recite some version of Zionist narrative,” Mr. Peretz sighs. . . .
All this stands in jarring contrast to the Democratic Party’s foreign-policy traditions, Mr. Peretz argues. “You know, I disagreed with Bill Clinton on some things and I didn’t disagree with him on others,” Mr. Peretz recalls. But Mr. Clinton’s administration “was in the deep tradition of the Roosevelt-Truman idea.” He concludes: “In any case, I think the Democratic Party was restored to a center role. Yes, it took a lot for the Clinton administration to rescue Bosnia. And it took a lot for the Democrats to admit to a mistake in Somalia.” But they eventually did both.
“We’re now in a new era,” Mr. Peretz warns. “I think that Obama is a child, or maybe let’s say a grandchild, of the New Left, with casual moral judgments made about very intricate ethical alternatives.” Later he thunders: “Leading by following — it’s really a sick phrase.”
Other prominent Obama supporters, such asDennis Ross, have essentially acknowledged Obama’s “peace process” efforts led nowhere and then have been conspicuous by their absence in the political campaign.
The job of pro-Obama spinners, including former Florida congressman Robert Wexler and philanthropist Alan Solow, who were engaged by the campaign to try to reassure former Jewish supporters, has become a sort of fool’s errand. The effort to convince pro-Israel Democrats that there is no basis for upset and even anger asks that those knowledgable about U.S.-Israel relations turn a blind eye toward the last 3 1/2 years.
The Obama spin squad might get more mileage and preserve its integrity if it acknowledged reality: This president’s relationship with Israel has been the most acrimonious of any U.S. president. The team can argue he’s learned his lesson or that he saw the disastrous results of trying to strong-arm Israel in negotiations, but insisting he’s been swell for U.S.-Israel relations sounds increasingly like the claim that the private sector is doing “fine.” If the spinners could be totally honest with fellow Democrats, they would say that as bad as Obama’s stewardship of the economy has been, it’s better than his handling of the U.S.-Israel relationship.