It was early last week that President Obama boldly took the stand that his administration supported Israel far above and beyond any previous President’s administration by any measure. To a group of prominent Jews at the Upper East Side home of Jack Rosen, a prominent businessman and chairman of the American Jewish Congress, President Obama was quoted as saying, “We don’t compromise when it comes to Israel’s security.” Taking this as a valid statement about President Obama and those top people he has chosen to make up his administration, let’s look and see how they have supported this position in just the recent past; this should be an eye opening and informative glimpse inside this administration.
Topping the supporting Israel theme from the Administration of President Obama is none other than former CIA Chief and present Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta who was quoted by Al Jazeera English as saying, “The problem right now is we can’t get them [Israeli negotiators] to the damn table to at least sit down and begin to discuss their differences. We understand the concerns of Israel; we understand the concerns of the Palestinians. If they sit at a table and work through those concerns and the United States can be of assistance in that process, then I think you have the beginning of what could be a process that could lead to a peace agreement. But if they aren’t there, if they aren’t at the table, this will never happen. So first and foremost get to the damn table.” Secretary Panetta suggested rather firmly, some might say insisted, that Israel make what concessions that may be required in order to return to the direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. Such a demand coming from President Obama’s Secretary of Defense will be taken by the Palestinian leadership that they can now make demands to their heart’s desire and the United States will force Israel to surrender completely. The problem with Secretary Panetta’s demands is that Israel has already fully agreed with the Quartet’s demands for resumption of negotiations without any preconditions while the Palestinians have demanded preconditions which would have Israel agreeing to acquiesce to every Palestinian negotiation position before negotiations even begin. In the simplest of terms, the Palestinian Authority does not wish to hold actual negotiations where there would be give and take with both sides having to surrender demands in order to expect the other side to give in on other points. The Palestinians want all issues to be decided before negotiations and to simply hold an Israeli surrender signing ceremony in lieu of actual negotiations. Apparently, the Obama Administration is in full agreement with demanding a total Israeli surrender.
Meanwhile, United States Ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman, speaking at a conference on how to combat anti-Semitism, attended by Jewish lawyers, last week stated, “A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.” Such statements blaming Israel for fueling anti-Semitism because of the standoff with the Palestinian Authority are not only hateful and baseless; they are cruel and soaked in anti-Semitism. The White House immediately issued a rejection distancing themselves from the Ambassador’s remarks claiming, “We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms. There is never any justification for prejudice against the Jewish people or Israel.” When looking at the history of statements and positions made by the Obama Administration and the State Department in particular, they seem to be completely in line with Ambassador Gutman’s position that reaching a peace pact with the Palestinian Authority will reduce anti-Semitism. Gutman helped raised half a million dollars for President Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008. This stands in stark contrast with the historic fact that both the Arab and Muslim Worlds have had a record of anti-Semitism reaching back over 1,500 years at varying times throughout the regions of their rule. This has gone as far as forcing Jews to wear special markings on their clothing such as a Yellow Star of David or other distinction starting as early as the 9th century by the Caliph in Baghdad. This practice was copied in areas throughout both the Muslim and Christian lands and was not initiated by the Nazis; they were simply the last ruling powers to use such a distinction, though I would expect that this very well may change in the near future.
The final nail in the coffin of how positively the Obama Administration works to protect and further Israeli positions comes from none other than Secretary of State Clinton. It must be noted that Clinton believed her remarks made in a closed forum would not be repeated or reported on and that all would remain within the hall in which she spoke. Apart from being extremely naive, this also gives a weight to her words as being a truthful representation of the thoughts she holds within her sole and would never reveal publically. To this commentator, her believing this was an off-the-record private conversation to a closed group only makes her hurtful language all the sharper and more critical than any “official” statement she could ever make. She had comments that spanned both domestic and foreign policies of the State of Israel and the members of the ruling coalition, especially Prime Minister Netanyahu. Let us first look at her comments on what is so wrong with Israeli domestic policies and where Ms. Clinton feels Israel comes up short.
Secretary of State Clinton had a main theme as she addressed Israeli domestic policies and agenda. She repeatedly stressed that Israel was becoming “anti-democratic” in many and various ways. Among the list of sins was that Israel had proposed limits on foreign funding of local NGOs such that NGOs would be limited in the amount of foreign funding they could receive by percentage in order to assure that Israeli NGOs operating within Israel would actually represent Israeli interests and not be paid domestic saboteurs for the European Union, various European governments, or foreign NGOs and private monies. Clinton also claimed that Israel was hurtful to women and was setting up discriminatory systems against women such as in busses used mainly by Hareidim religious passengers who prefer separate seating for men and women as a matter of modesty. This is restricted to a few bus lines and the arrangement is voluntary and not a legal issue, it is simply customs in a very local set of areas and not generally practiced throughout much of Israel. Her commenting, “It’s reminiscent of Rosa Parks,” was completely going overboard and completely inaccurate. Secretary Clinton was also bothered by the fact that Hareidim religious soldiers can be excused from IDF events in which a woman is singing, another voluntary allowance taken to further religious freedom and recognizing the strict laws of modesty when performed in mixed company observed by some religious Israelis. One must wonder how Secretary Clinton would react if this was Muslim soldiers being excused from watching a performance which was against their particular sect of Islam. Would this also be so horrible? This practice does not prevent having women sing at events held to entertain the soldiers and is no different than what the military of the United States does when providing Kosher and Halal meals for Jewish and Muslim soldiers in their military. Perhaps Ms. Clinton is adverse to religious accommodations by Israel or possibly everyone.
Secretary Clinton also had some points of contention about Israeli foreign policies and a particular objection to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision making processes. She reprimanded Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu claiming he had been wrong when he refused to apologize for the deaths of nine Turkish nationals onboard the Mavi Marmara during the Gaza flotilla in May of 2010. She pointed out that Turkey responded by downgrading its diplomatic ties with Israel that cost Israel the profits which could have been gained from continuing the strategic alliance with Turkey. Apparently, Ms. Clinton must believe that Israel would base decisions on how much money they will gain or lose and not stand up for ideals and actually take an honest and principled stand when it may cut into profits. She also pressed that Israel needs to take necessary actions in order to restart direct negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. She was not as blunt as Secretary Panetta had been in his statements a day earlier, but perhaps by following his performance she did not feel she needed to repeat his threats.
The sum of these statements from the varied sources in the Obama administration belie the statement that this administration has done more for Israel than any administration in the history of the United States. Maybe President Obama simply chose his words poorly or his teleprompter died again and he was supposed to claim that his administration had done more to Israel, not for Israel. Taking these recent comments, the treatment of Prime Minister Netanyahu during his visits to the United States, the treatment of other members of this Israeli government by officials of the administration, and the policies enacted by President Obama all into consideration and one can only honestly conclude that perhaps Israel is not at the top of President Obama’s friends list. Of course, this was made evident very early in the Obama Presidency when he made his very first phone call in the Oval Office after being sworn into office and called none other than Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Then again, maybe he was simply going through his rolodex in alphabetical order.
Beyond the Cusp