Wednesday, April 7, 2010


For literally over a year I resisted the arguments of friends that, first, presidential Nominee Obama and, then, President Obama had been indoctrinated by his clergy, his virulently anti-Israel "friends" and acquaintances and by many of his advisers to a foreign policy position that would ultimately poison the historic friendship between Israel and the United States. I resist no longer; who could?

Certainly the announcement of the issuance of permits for the construction of over 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem as a "welcome to Israel" gift to the Vice-President was a major insult to the historic relationship, the use of that "gaffe" as an excuse by this Administration to unceasingly attack Israel in derogation of 62 years of history was and is unforgivable. This, after all, is a President who bent his knee to dictators, yet hides this country's only friend, the only democracy, in the Middle East, in a room at the White House while he dines with his family elsewhere. The insults delivered in a 45 minute diatribe by the Secretary of State apparently dictated by the President to Prime Minister Netanyahu in the aftermath of the PM's apology for his country's insulting behavior ("insulting" in the sense that the United States failed to understand that the neighborhood in which this housing would be built is within the historic borders of a united Jerusalem).

Contrast this behavior with President Obama's recent visit to Afghanistan where he met with President Karzai and the aftermath. Forget that Obama can't bring himself to visit Israel (even though he did so as a State Senator under the sponsorship of the Chicago community with no apparent impact); forget that Karzai may have been reelected in an election characterized by incredible corruption and was on the cusp of signing an executive order disbanding any inquiry into the corruption. And forget that Karzai almost immediately after the Presidential visit attacked the United States in a now notorious speech. This time Hillary Clinton would call Karzai as "...a friend and Secretary of State." No "condemnation" -- that is apparently left for friends of the United States.

There are those here and in Israel who point to the Obama "outrage" as the catalyst for a new Intifada...and in fact violence in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel has exploded since the verbal assault on Israel. We are witnessing the unintended consequences of misguided policy characterized by a bipolar disorder -- swinging from Clinton's characterization of the Netanyahu Administration's freeze on settlements as "unprecedented" to the unceasing assault on the Israeli Government these past weeks. If all of this -- starting with Obama's Cairo speech to today -- was meant to purchase some pan-Arab support for the peace process or to bring the Abbas "government" to the table; take a look at the results.

No, this is an Administration, after one year, that has no apparent foreign policy whatsoever. It is a Presidency that appears, in an effort to curry favor with radical, uncaring Arab states, dedicated to breaching the historic partnership between Israel and the United States without any understanding of the real issues in the Middle East. It is a policy doomed to failure by an Administration doomed to the same.

Under circumstances such as these, one has the right to expect that the organizations we support would speak truth to power, don't we? Think back to another era, where the Chair of the Conference of Presidents, Shoshana Cardin, confronted directly President George H. W. Bush upon his accusations that we American Jews and our organizations constitute a Fifth Column in our country; contrast her courage with that of the Conference today where a "Statement on US Israel Relations" on March 28 -- March 28 -- (a) failed to cite the President of the United States at all and (b) appeared to blame the media for the current state of affairs.

The Jewish Federations of North America has no voice on this subject whatsoever; its IAI "partnership" with JCPA remains in silence (and would probably argue that the subject matter is beyond the IAI "purpose.") Yes, more than 3/4's of our Congress have spoken on the subject directly in a letter to the Administration, but our own organizations -- zip. This at a time when only the ADL (and of course the ZOA) has had the courage of its convictions among the multitude of "defense" organizations. Shoshana Cardin didn't stick a finger in the air to see which way the wind was blowing when a President of the United States attacked us; today our leaders seem to not even know which finger to stick into the air coopted by an invitation to the White House, reporting on how "exciting" it is.

Our silence is our shame.



paul jeser said...

100% correct.

Anonymous said...

Tom Friedman's admonition: friends don't let friends drive drunk" has not been negated by your appeal to misplaced Jewish pride and patriotism. The retention of the bulk of the lands (and its populations) east of the 48 borders is not sustainable, the present government in Israel has given veto power to 12th century religious fanatics and a foreign minister with the political sensibilities of Attila the Hun. The contempt for Diaspora Jewry of Shas, Yisrael Beiteinu and half or more of Likud is both sad and scary And the Jewish world, in Israel and the galut, is split between your wounded sense of victimhood and my fear for our soul. And yes, we all know our enemies are out there with knives drawn. We of course need a friend in the White House but its not someone like the "enabler" Bush but someone (and Obama may still be that someone) who will now pressure the Palestinians and drive home a deal similar to the Clinton plan.

RWEX said...


My "wounded sense of victimhood?" and your "fear for our soul?" What are you talking about? Today Tom Friedman cited, in a different context, the "rule of holes -- 'when you're in one, stop digging.'" This would be good advice to you, to JStreet...and to the President...when it comes to policy...and attitude...toward Israel.

Anonymous said...

"wounded sense of victimhood?" and "fear for our soul?" seems to me to be a fair summary of essence of the political division of Jews in America. The right sees Israel as the victim always of everything; the left fears that Israel's democracy is threatened by the weakening of the will to protect the rights of all Israelis, Jewish or not. Ask Naomi Chazan about that....

Anonymous said...

[I'm a different anonymous]

Richard, I think reasonable people who want to see the best for Israel and for the US-Israel relationship can differ on the best ways to achieve this.

There's plenty of blame to go around. But surely this pales in comparison to the first Bush Administration, and James Baker's very public invectives against a similarly (then) uncooperative Sharon government.

Bibi doesn't want to significantly change the status quo, plain and simple--he never has...and even if he did today, he's stuck between a rock and a hard place because of the crazy nature of his coalition.

Israel has to put up or shut up. It can choose to have this kind of government, but then it cannot possibly be surprised that there will be international consequences.

Anonymous said...

A Jewish and democratic state, safe and secure, with a solid Jewish majority and internationally recognized borders - that was the dream and the goal of Herzl, Ben Gurion and even Jabotinsky whose committment to expanded borders was predicated on a Jewish majority. Realities now dictate compromise and repartition and not allowing denial and messianism to erode Israel's special relationship with America. Nothing short of the future of zionism and the legitimacy of the Jewish state is at stake. Let's tone down the rhetoric and upgrade our analysis and dialogue.

Andy said...


Thanks for standing up....welcome aboard...maybe now we can get something done