US election season is clearly upon us as US President Barack Obama has moved into full campaign mode. Part and parcel of that mode is a new bid to woo Jewish voters and donors upset by Obama’s hostility to Israel back in the Democratic Party’s fold.
To undertake this task, the White House turned to its reliable defender, columnist Jeffrey Goldberg. Since 2008, when then-candidate Obama was first challenged on his anti-Israel friends, pastors and positions, Goldberg has willingly used his pen to defend Obama to the American Jewish community.
Trying to portray Obama as pro-Israel is not a simple task. From the outset of his tenure in office, Obama has distinguished himself as the most anti-Israel president ever.
Obama is the first president ever to denounce Jewish property rights in Jerusalem. He is the first president to require Israel to deny Jews property rights in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria as a precondition for peace talks with the Palestinians.
He is the first US president to adopt the position that Israel must surrender its right to defensible borders in the framework of a peace treaty. He has even made Israeli acceptance of this position a precondition for negotiations.
He is the first US president to accept Hamas as a legitimate actor in Palestinian politics. Obama’s willingness to do so was exposed by his refusal to end US financial assistance to the PA in the aftermath of last spring’s unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas.
He is the first US president to make US support for Israel at the UN conditional on Israeli concessions to the Palestinians.
Even today, Obama has refused to state outright whether or not he will veto a Security Council resolution later this month endorsing Palestinian statehood outside the context of a peace treaty with Israel. As he leaves Israel twisting in the wind, he has sent his chief Middle East Peace Processors Dennis Ross and David Hale to Israel to threaten Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into caving to US-Palestinian demands and beg PA leader Mahmoud Abbas to accept an Israeli surrender and cancel his plans to have the UN General Assembly upgrade the PLO’s mission to the UN.
GIVEN OBAMA’S record – to which can be added his fervent support for Turkish Prime Minister and virulent anti-Semite Recep Tayyip Erdogan, his courtship of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and his massive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and Egypt – it is obvious that any attempt to argue that Obama is pro-Israel cannot be based on substance, or even on tone. And so Goldberg’s article, like several that preceded it, is an attempt to distort Obama’s record and deflect responsibility for that record onto Netanyahu. Netanyahu, in turn, is demonized as ungrateful and uncooperative.
Goldberg’s narrative began by recalling Netanyahu’s extraordinary statement during his photo opportunity with Obama at the Oval Office during his visit to Washington in May. At the time, Netanyahu gave an impassioned defense of Israel’s right to secure borders and explained why the 1949 armistice lines are indefensible.
Goldberg centered on then-secretary of defense Robert Gates’s angry statement to his colleagues in the wake of Netanyahu’s visit. Gates reportedly accused Israel of being ungrateful for all the things the US did for it.
After presenting Gates as an objective critic whose views were justified and shared by one and all, Goldberg went on to claim that the administration’s justified antipathy for Netanyahu was liable to harm Israel. That is, he claimed that it would be Netanyahu’s fault if Obama abandoned traditional US support for Israel.
Goldberg’s article is stunning on several levels. First, his distortion of events is breathtaking. Specifically he failed to note that Netanyahu’s statement at the Oval Office was precipitated by Obama’s decision to blindside Netanyahu with his announcement that the US supported an Israeli withdrawal to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines. Obama made the statement in a speech given while Netanyahu was en route to Washington.
Then there is his portrayal of Gates as an objective observer. Goldberg failed to mention that Gates’s record has been consistently anti-Israel. In his Senate approval hearings during the Bush administration, Gates became the first senior US official to state publicly that Israel had a nuclear arsenal.
Gates was a member of the 2006 Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group that recommended the US pressure Israel to surrender Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the Golan Heights in order to appease the Arab world and pave the way for a US withdrawal from Iraq.
Gates did everything he could at the Pentagon to deny Israel the ability to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. He was also a fervent advocate of massive arms sales to Saudi Arabia that upset the military balance in the Middle East.
The Obama administration bases its claims that it is pro-Israel on the fact that it has continued and expanded some of the joint US-Israel missile defense projects that were initiated by the Bush administration. Goldberg sympathetically recorded the argument.
But the truth is less sanguine. While jointly developing defensive systems, the administration has placed unprecedented restrictions on the export of offensive military platforms and technologies to Israel. Under Gates, Pentagon constraints on Israeli technology additions to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters nearly forced Israel to cancel its plans to purchase the aircraft.
IT IS an open question whether American Jews will be willing to buy the bill of goods the administration is trying to sell them through their media proxies in next year’s presidential elections. But if next week’s special elections for New York’s Ninth Congressional District are any indication, the answer is apparently that an unprecedented number of American Jews are unwilling to ignore reality and support the most anti-Israel president ever.
The New York race is attracting great attention because it is serving as a referendum on Obama’s policies toward Israel. The district, representing portions of Queens and Brooklyn, is heavily Jewish and has been reliably Democratic. And yet, a week before the elections, Republican candidate Bob Turner is tied in the polls with Democratic candidate David Weprin, and the main issue in the race is Obama’s policies on Israel.
To sidestep criticism of the president’s record, Weprin is seeking to distance himself from Obama. He refuses to say if he will support Obama’s reelection bid. And he is as critical of Obama’s record on Israel as his Republican opponent is.
But Turner’s argument – that as a Democrat, Weprin will be forced to support his party and so support Obama – is gaining traction with voters. According to a McLaughlin poll of the district released on September 1, Turner’s bid is gaining steam, and Weprin’s is running out of steam, with Turner’s favorability rates on the rise and Weprin’s declining.
Deflecting substantive criticism by seeking to demonize one’s opponents is a standard leftist play. Obama and his political supporters engage in it routinely in their demonization of their political opponents as "terrorists" and "extremists." And now, with the American Jewish vote in play for the first time since 1936, they are doing it to Netanyahu.
It is encouraging to see that at least in New York’s Ninth Congressional District, American Jews are refusing to be taken in.
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.