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His previous actions and words speak louder than this week’s salesmanship.
President Barack Obama’s address this week to the America Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was a remarkable performance of salesmanship. But was there truth in advertising?
Striking all the right notes for his audience, President Obama talked up his record of supporting Israel materially, intoning about Israel’s security being non-negotiable, preserving Israel’s qualitative military edge “with more advanced technology — the types of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies,” and deploying the Iron Dome missile defense system to protect Israel from incoming missiles from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Obama also talked up his record supporting Israel diplomatically — “When the [UN-commissioned] Goldstone report [into the 2010 Gaza flotilla clash] unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it.… When the [UN-commissioned anti-Semitic] Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it.… When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them.”
And Obama also reassured his audience about Iran’s nuclear weapons program, affirming that neither Israel nor the U.S. can accept Tehran possessing nuclear bombs, that consequently all avenues for preventing this outcome, including military ones, are “on the table,” and that Israel has a “sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs.”
All of which emboldened the President to conclude, “I have Israel’s back” and “as you examine my commitment, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds.”
Let’s do so.
In April 2009, Vice-President Joseph Biden strongly warned Israel of the Administration’s opposition to any Israeli military action against Iran. The same month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that American support in countering the Iranian nuclear threat was conditional on Israel making concessions to the Palestinians. Last December, the Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, explicitly opposed an Israeli strike. And if reports are true, Obama is privately warning Israel of penalties for striking Iran if he wins reelection. Nothing here about Israel’s “sovereign right to make it own decisions.”
For a year, Obama prohibited any new U.S. sanctions to stop Iran developing nuclear weapons. Nor has he laid down any red lines beyond which the U.S. will not permit Iran to advance in its quest for nuclear weapons. Worse, since Israel has fewer military capabilities than the U.S., it also has a smaller window of opportunity to deal with Iran’s nuclear program than the U.S — yet Obama is now asking it to waiting several more months for sanction to have an impact. Whatever else may be on “the table” at that point, Israel’s capacity to act might not be among them.
In his AIPAC speech, President Obama took credit for imposing sanctions on Iran’s Central Bank. In fact, as of last week, he has not implemented these sanctions, whose passage through the Congress he tried to slow and whose strength he sought to dilute. Numerous Democrats and Republicans from both the Senate and the House have called for him to actually start enforcing the sanctions they passed and which, at the moment, will not even take effect until June.
Obama said at AIPAC that “the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations” and back Israel diplomatically. And his Administration has — on the occasions cited above. But such support was scarcely evident when Obama supported the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, which demands not only an Israeli withdrawal to the vulnerable and serpentine 1949 armistice lines and a Palestinian state throughout the West Bank, but also the return of all Palestinian refugees and their millions of descendants to Israel in return for “normalization” (not “peace”) — and only after Israel does all this.
Nor was it evident in 2010 when, unlike Bill Clinton in 2000 and George W. Bush in 2005, Obama permitted the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference statement singling out Israel and insisting it joint the NPT.
Nor was it evident when Obama agreed to a UN June 2010 Security Council statement he could have easily vetoed which “condemned” the “acts” that led to loss of life on the Gaza flotilla, or when he called on CNN’s Larry King show for an investigation into the deaths of “innocent” victims — actually, Hamas supporters who premeditatedly assaulted the Israeli boarding party enforcing the lawful inspection of ships bound for Gaza.
Nor was it evident in February 2011, when Obama sought to condemn Israel in the UN Security Council for the “illegitimacy” of Jewish communities in the West Bank. Only when the Arab states refused to oblige and demanded that they be condemned as “illegal” — a legally baseless assertion — was Obama compelled to veto.
And it was still less evident this February, when, having cut US funding to UNESCO in accordance with US law for it admitting the PA as a sovereign state, Obama sought to continue and in fact increase funding to UNESCO. Indeed, by doing so, he encouraged the PA to press ahead with its policy — unpenalized by Obama — of circumventing negotiations by seeking sovereign recognition by international organizations.
Obama said at AIPAC that Israel’s security must be “sacrosanct.” But this was no-where in evidence when, in October 2010, Obama offered Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) that, if it would only remain in talks with Israel after the expiry of Israel’s unilateral 10-month freeze on Jewish construction in the West Bank, he would endorse the Palestinian/Arab Peace Initiative demand that Israel withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines and establish a Palestinian state.
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