The administration has long suggested that the problem in the U.S.-Israel relationship is Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The response of the Israeli people however suggests that the problem is Obama, who is the least pro-Israel president in history. The Israelis don’t have the luxury of self-delusion as Obama’s liberal supporters do. From the vantage point of their very rough neighborhood, they see the administration capitulating at every turn to Iran. Israel, like its Sunni neighbors, notices serial concessions on Iran that will leave Arab neighbors with no choice but enter into a nuclear arms race. And they see Obama’s passivity in the face of aggression by Iran and its proxies and allies.
Democrats here who think this is about their own domestic politics (i.e. defending the president against the speaker and/or an unruly Israel politician) should think again. The Anti-Defamation League condemns liberal group J Street’s role: “At the height of the controversy surrounding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress, J Street’s petition campaign that attempts to distance itself and American Jews from Israel’s duly elected prime minister is inflammatory and repugnant and exacerbates an already heated and politicized moment for U.S. Israel relations at a critical juncture in the West’s negotiations with Iran.” The statement continues on: “Let’s remember what is at stake: Preventing extremist Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon that could threaten Israel’s very existence. In that goal, Mr. Netanyahu surely does represent not only Israelis but American Jews as well.”
Indeed it is not Israeli voters who will be influenced by events here — they already have made up their minds about Obama. It is rather Israel’s enemies in Tehran, Damascus and elsewhere that will be delighted to see one of the two major political parties turn its back on the elected leader of the Jewish state. In a joint statement, Bill Kristol of the conservative Emergency Committee for Israel and Gary Bauer of Christians United for Israel said:
The bottom line is simple: The enemies of Israel benefit most from this campaign against the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech. Whatever their views on Israeli politics or the Iranian nuclear negotiations, members of Congress who are friends of Israel should not play into the hands of Israel’s enemies — and America’s — by boycotting this speech. Boycotting Israel is high on the agenda of the enemies of Israel. Welcoming Israel’s Prime Minister to the halls of Congress is the least that those who claim to be friends of the Jewish state should do.“As representatives of two proudly pro-Israel organizations, we urge members of Congress to do the right thing for the U.S. and Israel. And for those who would turn their backs on Israel and boycott its leader — they are no friends of Israel, and we pledge to do our best to educate voters about their undermining of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship at this crucial hour.”
Democrats sensitive about their parties’ declining support for Israel (born out in a slew of polls) keep complaining that Israel is being “politicized.” There would be no issue if the Democratic Party and the president returned to the party’s historic role as pro-Israel. But behaving as the president does and as boycotters of the speech intend to, they cannot expect others not to notice. There would be no political advantage for the GOP if Democrats’ were equally supportive of Israel and equally critical of the president’s Iran folly. And if conservatives here and the Israeli electorate notice, you can bet the mullahs do. And by the way, I wonder what Hillary Clinton thinks? She might want to rethink her whole third-term strategy.