The Obama Watch

Stabbed in the Back

Obama pats himself on the back for making Israel less secure.

By 12.7.11

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While President Obama was congratulating himself about doing more for Israel's security than any other president in American history, three senior administration officials were working overtime to reinforce the view that Israel is blight unto the nations.

Last week Obama told what is a shrinking group of Jewish campaign donors in New York City (the fact they could all fit into a Greenwich Village townhouse tells you something) the following: 

This administration -- I try not to pat myself too much on the back -- but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration."

Whether it's making sure that our intelligence cooperation is effective, to making sure that we're able to construct something like an iron dome so that we don't have missiles raining down on Tel Aviv, we have been consistent in insisting that we don't compromise when it comes to Israel's security.

First, intelligence sharing, protecting Israel against missiles, and maintaining Israel's qualitative military edge is not something that should be congratulated. It's what allies do for each other: Should Obama pat himself on the back for maintaining military commitments to NATO, South Korea, and Japan?

Unlike how we treat other allies, at every turn the administration is harming Israel's security by how it acts and talks about it. And last week and in succession, three top administration foreign policy officials not only criticized Israel, they emboldened the campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state.

By turn, each official reinforced the perception peddled by Israel's enemies that it is a militaristic and oppressive regime whose isolation is due to its refusal to take steps on behalf of peace. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta claimed Israel was more isolated from its "traditional security partners" like Turkey, Egypt and Jordan because it had upset each in the process of chasing down terrorists -- and because it wasn't doing enough to make peace with the Palestinians. Set aside that Panetta ignored Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai, from Lebanon, from Gaza or how it froze settlement construction for 10 months to coax the Palestinians back to negotiating. Would officials concerned about Israel's security offer up Muslim Brotherhood talking points?

But Panetta's remarks were tame compared to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's screed ("a three-minute monologue") against a new Israeli law that in her view restricts left-wing NGOs and demands on the part of some ultra-Orthodox groups for separate seating for men and women on some buses and exempting soldiers from their communities from having to hear women sing at army-required events. She told a group it reminded her of Rosa Parks and that the actions were more suited to Iran than Israel.

The regulation of NGOs -- as in our Patriot Act -- tries to stop aid to groups that support terrorist organizations. Ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel have been asking for more separation of men and women on buses and the military for some time. To object to such actions is one thing. But comparing Obama's "stalwart ally" with Islamist regimes that condone rape and bar women from driving cars? Will Hillary criticize the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt with as much passion?

But Howard Gutman, Obama's ambassador to Belgium, delivered the punch line. He told a European conference on anti-Semitism: "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." That's right. An American ambassador excused Muslim anti-Semitism (and the violent expression thereof).

The White House disavowed the statement. But Gutman's remarks reflect the administration's belief that Israel is causing the Muslim violence and terrorism it endures rather than being its focus. Or as Barry Rubin put it: "the Obama Administration encourages and supports the coming to power of fanatically anti-Israel groups, then have the nerve to say Israel is becoming isolated because it isn't making enough concessions! They encourage and support the rise of regimes that are totally against any peace with Israel or any two-state solution, and then have the nerve to say that Israel can defuse the situation by making peace."

So when the president says he has done more for Israel's security than any other president, he is right. He and his administration -- especially through this most recent set of rants -- has made Israel less secure, not more. 

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About the Author
Robert M. Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and founder of Hands Off My H ealth, a grass roots health care empowerment network. His is new book, Tabloid Medicine: How the Internet is Being Used To Hijack Medical Science For Fear and Profit, was published last month by Kaplan.