Friday, July 09, 2010

On Israel, Obama Falls Back On "The Hussein Defense"

Obama has given an interview with Yonit Levi of Israel's Channel 2 News. Naturally, at one point the focus turned on how Israelis perceive Obama:
Q Now, I must ask you this, Mr. President, there are people in Israel who are anxious about you --


Q -- and who -- you know, I'm quoting their sentiments -- feel like you don't have a special connection to Israel. How do you respond to that?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's interesting -- this is the thing that actually surfaced even before I was elected President, in some of the talk that was circulating within the Jewish American community. Ironically, I've got a Chief of Staff named Rahm Israel Emmanuel. My top political advisor is somebody who is a descendent of Holocaust survivors. My closeness to the Jewish American community was probably what propelled me to the U.S. Senate.

And my not just knowledge but sympathy and identification with the Jewish experience is rooted in part because of the historic connection between the African American freedom movement here in the United States and the civil rights efforts of Jewish Americans and some of the same impulses that led to the creation of Israel.

And so I think what this arises from -- some of it may just be the fact that my middle name is Hussein, and that creates suspicion.
Some of it may have to do with the fact that I have actively reached out to the Muslim community, and I think that sometimes, particularly in the Middle East, there's the feeling of the friend of my enemy must be my enemy. And the truth of the matter is, is that my outreach to the Muslim community is designed precisely to reduce the antagonism and the dangers posed by a hostile Muslim world to Israel and to the West.
Does Obama really think that 28% of Israelis don't read the newspapers? Did Israelis suddenly wake up and find out what Obama's middle name is--or suddenly care?

They sure didn't care back in July 2008 when a poll was taken about how Israelis felt about him:
When asked "who would you rather see elected as the next president of the United States," Obama bested John McCain by a 37-28 margin. While far from a decisive advantage -- 35 percent of Israelis chose "no preference" or some other answer -- the poll reflects a notably different state of affairs from previous surveys, which generally showed McCain with a large advantage over Obama.

Obama's competitiveness spanned the political spectrum across Israel's top three parties. The Illinois Democrat trounced McCain among Israel's most liberal voters, who belong to the Labor Party (44-6), tied among more right-wing Likud voters (28-28), and held a slight edge among sympathizers of the Kadima Party, which is led by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert (40-32).
That contrasts sharply with a poll taken back in March that found that 9% of Israelis thought that the Obama administration was pro-Israel as opposed to 48% that considered it pro-Palestinian--and those numbers are actually an improvement on the numbers from last August when 4% thought he was pro-Israel. Still, from 37% down to 9% is a 28% drop.

Obama still approaches the issue as a politician, as opposed to a leader. His first impulse is to present his pro-Israel credentials by virtue of association as opposed to achievement. He notes that his Chief of Staff is "Rahm Israel Emanuel"--he actually has to toss in Emanuel's middle name in case you don't get it that the guy is Jewish (and Israeli!). Of course, Emanuel's job has nothing to do with advising on Israeli policy and he was appointed based on his hard-nosed reputation. Obama also throws in that his top political advisor is a descendant of Holocaust survivors. Descendant? The Holocaust occurred before I was born too, but I don't think of it as having happened that long ago--and the fact that Obama connects the Holocaust with support for Israel is part of his faulty historical sense of Israel that I have written about before.

Even when Obama turns to his achievements in promoting Israel's security, he first takes pride in how much he talks about Israel's security. Then when he turns to his achievements, he doesn't actually describe them--but he does brag that his achievements exceed those of any previous administration.
Q So that fear, the tangible fear that some Israelis have that their best ally in the world might abandon them is --

THE PRESIDENT: Well, it's pretty hard to square with the fact that not only have I in every speech that I've ever given talked about the unbreakable bond to Israel, not only did I describe that special relationship and condemn those who would try to drive a rift between us in Cairo in front of a Muslim audience, but if you look at our actions -- and Prime Minister Netanyahu will confirm this, and even critics I think will have to confirm that the United States under my administration has provided more security assistance to Israel than any administration in history. And we’ve got greater security cooperation between our two countries than at any time in our history. And the single most important threat to Israel -- Iran, and its potential possession of a nuclear weapon -- has been my number one foreign policy priority over the course of the last 18 months.

So it’s hard to, I think, look at that track record and look at my public statements and in any way think that my passions for Israel’s survival, its security, and its people are in any way diminished.
I certainly cannot judge Obama's passion, but I can judge the effect his actions are having in the Middle East--apparently, Obama is not taking into account the fact that Iran is growing stronger and more brazen.

Or the fact that it is proceeding with its nuclear plans.
Or that other Arab countries are taking note of this and are working on their own nuclear plans as a result.
Or that the sons of murdered Lebanese leaders Jumblatt and Hariri are looking to mend fences with Syria--the country held responsible.
Or that Hezbollah is rearming itself for another war with Israel, with opposition from UNIFIL.
Or that Obama talks about sending millions to Gaza, without making it conditional on Gilad Shalit's release.

But besides all that, one would think that the president under whom there is more assistance to Israel than ever before would be able to also brag about an example or two.

These days, though, you can say anything you like in the media without much concern about being called on it. Especially if you are Obama.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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