Saturday, October 02, 2010

Is Barack Obama “Good for the Jews”? (And How About Bill Clinton And Bush?)

Is Barack Obama “Good for the Jews”?
by Joel Fishman
Makor Rishon

1 October 2010

The attitude of any American president to Israel is a matter of concern because it affects our lives and security. Even this week, President Obama publicly exhorted Israel to extend the settlement freeze. Many Israelis found this interference insensitive and unwelcome. One would not ask if this president is a friend of Israel, because in his Cairo speech of 4 June 2009 he publicly revealed his preference. Just the same, one continuously asks whether Obama is “good for the Jews” (and Israel), even if the question is left unstated.

Normally, one would expect that any president first be good for America, but Obama has not convinced many Americans that this is the case. It is remarkable that a parallel questioning process is taking place in the U.S., where senior political commentators, such as Peggy Noonan, Dinesh D’Souza, Charles Krauthammer, Andy McCarthy, and Victor Davis Hanson, are also asking if the President is good for America, and they are not convinced. Their vantage point may be different, but if America and Israel share the same [Judeo-Christian] values, then the interests of the U.S. and of Israel should largely coincide. The historical record is mixed.

There is a need to examine the recent past, because the two previous American presidents who claim to be friends of the Jewish state have actually caused considerable harm.

From a broader perspective, as president, Bill Clinton’s great failure was that, even after the attacks on the World Trade Center [February 1993] and the Khobar Towers [June 1996], he did not regard radical Islamic terror as a serious threat.

To make things worse, the Clinton administration defined terror down, making it as a criminal offence rather than an act of war. The response to each is different. If one considers terror a criminal act, one brings offenders to law. If one considers terror an act of war, one may fight it by every possible means. There is a difference, and, as Albert Camus wrote, “naming things incorrectly, whether intentionally or not, adds to the misfortune of the world.”

An unwillingness to deal with the dangers of terror helped create conditions which left America vulnerable to a devastating surprise attack. Although the 9/11 report did not assign personal responsibility, the late Professor Emeritus Ernest May of Harvard, Senior Advisor to the 9/11 Commission, independently went public. He reported that “the CIA turned against him [Clinton] when he failed to attend a ceremony for two employees gunned down by a terrorist at the entrance to agency headquarters.” He was also not on speaking terms with Louis Freeh, the director of the FBI. Thus, President Clinton did not have an effective working relationship with America’s main security agencies, and the consequences are known – for America and for its allies, among them, Israel.

With regard to bi-lateral relations, it is not generally remembered that in the spring of 1993, President Clinton compelled the Rabin government to repatriate four hundred and fifteen members of the Hamas leadership which it had expelled to Lebanon in December 1992. Thus, Clinton contributed to the ascendancy of Hamas in Gaza. If we take the combined effects of Condoleezza Rice’s contribution and that of Bill Clinton, it is obvious that the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic Republic of Iran owe a tremendous debt to the two recent American administrations.

In addition, there are some things that we may never know. During the advice and consent hearings for Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State, the William J. Clinton Foundation reluctantly disclosed that that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia donated between ten and twenty-five million dollars to the Clinton presidential library fund. We need to know exactly what Prince Bandar meant when he said that "If the reputation then builds that the Saudis take care of friends when they leave office, you'd be surprised how much better friends you have when they are just coming into office." Clearly there is a lack of transparency here. We still do not know what the Saudis bought with their considerable investment which took the form of a deferred payment.

Just last week, former President Clinton spoke up, and openly criticized Israelis who emigrated from the former Soviet Union because they were critical of the “peace process.” It is inconceivable that an Israeli prime minister would criticize attitudes of any ethnic group in the United States, and this was simply bad manners.

For his part, George W. Bush took great pains to demonstrate his open friendship with Israel. When he came to Israel for the celebration of sixty years of independence, he and Prime Minister Olmert acted like brothers. However, there was a disharmony between appearances and reality. As a consequence of Saudi pressure and threats at the end of August 2001 (right before 9/11), the Americans, for the very first time, sponsored the idea of a Palestinian state. Also, in November 2005, Condoleezza Rice compelled Israel to open the Rafah border crossings. Against advice from all quarters, Rice pressed for elections in the Palestinian Authority (January 25, 2006) which then included Gaza. This turned out to be a colossal mistake. Hamas won in Gaza, and this district became a sanctuary for terror – like Laos in its time. We now live with the consequences of this failure. Thank you, Condoleezza! Mention should also be made of the scandalous and dishonest November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate which dismissed the threat of the Iranian nuclear program. This report confused the public and prevented an effective response to the problem.

To date, President Barack Obama has not yet succeeded in doing the same degree of harm to Israel as his two predecessors. To his credit, he does not claim to be a friend. For the present, we must respect his frankness but watch him closely.
Dr. Joel Fishman is a Fellow at a research institute in Jerusalem. 

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NormanF said...

The good news is Obama is very unpopular and is dragging the Democrats down with him.

His domestic program for the next two years looks to be DOA. It is only in foreign affairs that he still has real freedom of action.

And that is reason for concern.

American Eagle said...

I thought a Palestinian state was part of the original partition in 1947, and would have been a fait accompli had the Palestinians accepted Israel's right to exist back then instead of illustrating the height of hubris by trying to "push the Jews into the sea". Joel Fishman obviously suffers from what we call Bush Derangement Syndrome when he spins the facts and criticizes Bush, the most pro-Israeli US president in recent history, and excuses Obama, whose bias is clearly not in Israel's favor as even Prof. Alan Dershowitz has realized after taking a leave of his senses to vote for Obama. Israel certainly cannot count on Obama when the chips are down as we will see if Iran breaks out before 2013. Besides, would Hamas have disappeared if they had not been elected in Gaza? Has Joel Fishman even read the Hamas Charter?

Anonymous said...

Dear American Eagle,

Thank you so much for your feedback.
I think you would do well to read the article carefully. In reply to your question, Fishman has ead the Hamas Charter.


American Eagle said...

Dear Anonymous, If Dr. Fishman had read the Hamas Charter and knew that Obama's first envoy after he was elected and before he was even sworn in, was to Hamas, he would not be excoriating George Bush, a steadfast pro-Israeli president and excusing Obama who is the most pro-Islamic-radical president in history, as we know from his apologies for the US defense of freedom and democracy to all the Arab dictators.

Daled Amos said...

I'm fairly certain that Dr. Fishman is aware of what is contained in the Hamas Charter.

He also explicitly writes that "George W. Bush took great pains to demonstrate his open friendship with Israel."

I see his point as being that nevertheless, there were actions taken by Bush--and by Rice on his behalf--which had clear, negative consequences.

Just as he acknowledges Obama's less than friendly attitude towards Israel, Dr. Fishman finds the consequences of Obama's actions to be less destructive.

For example, sending an envoy to Hamas has proven to be less of a problem than the actual election of Hamas that was made possible by Bush--albeit unintentionally--in the first place.