Obama and Israel - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Obama and Israel

Marc Ambinder notes that the Clinton campaign has been distributing this Robert Goldberg article that ran on the Spectator's main page yesterday. The article argued that Barack Obama would have to answer for his military advisor Merrill McPeak's statements on Israel and thinly-veiled anti-Semitic statements. I wouldn't go as far as Goldberg did in his piece, but I do think the normally fair Ambinder really isn't all that fair in his criticism of the article.

Ambinder implies that Goldberg accuses McPeak of being an anti-Semite because of McPeak's support for having Israel return to its pre-1967 border and because he is sympathetic to the Walt-Mearsheimer thesis. But Goldberg actually has a far more damning reason for drawing his conclusions about McPeak's prejudices. Goldberg pointed to a 2003 interview in the Oregonian in which, in the context of a discussion on Israel, McPeak was asked, "So where's the problem? State? White House?" and McPeak responded, "New York City. Miami. We have a large vote — vote, here in favor of Israel. And no politician wants to run against it."  Given that those two cities are known to have among the highest concentrations of Jewish voters in the United States, I have no idea how Ambinder would read that statement other than that McPeak is blaming Jews for problems he has with U.S. foreign policy.

Furthermore, Ambinder outrageously writes that, "As one keen observer pointed out to me, if advocating the pre '67 border map makes one an anti-Semite, just about every iteration of the U.S. government since 1967 would qualify." Putting aside the fact that Goldberg never wrote that anybody who takes that position is an anti-Semite, the so-called "keen observer" is either ignorant of Middle Eastern history or being intentionally misleading.

I'm not sure how far McPeak goes on this issue, but it has never been the position of the U.S. government that Israel should return to the pre-1967 border map. A return to the pre-1967 map would mean that Israel would have to give up full control of the holy sites (Jordan controlled those from 1948-1967, denied Jews access, and desecrated them). It would also mean an indefensible border for Israel as narrow as eight miles. While the United States has supported Israel returning some (at times even a lot) of the land it acquired in 1967, only extremists who have fully adopted the Palestinian position support Israel returning all of the land, which would put the nation in a perilous security position. (See the debate over the meaning of U.N. Resolution 242). In fact, after the war, President Johnson declared, "There are some who have urged, as a single, simple solution, an immediate return to the situation as it was on June 4…this is not a prescription for peace but for renewed hostilities."

As for the larger point, I do not think that everybody who is critical of Israel is an anti-Semite, nor do I think that Obama should be considered an anti-Semite because of McPeak's derisive remarks toward Jews in New York City and Miami. However, I do think there are plenty of reasons for anybody who is a supporter of Israel — Jewish or not — to be concerned about Obama based on his public statements and the company he keeps.

Separately but related, I just noticed today that Daniel Larison believes that my concerns about Obama's approach to Israel are unwarranted because of pro-Israel statements he has made. Perhaps Larison is correct. But that's precisely the problem with evaluating Obama. He has such a thin public record that I'm forced to sort through conflicting signals he has sent on Israel to evaluate him. While I'm generally not a fan of guilt by association, because he doesn't have much of voting record to reassure me, I am forced to take a more serious look at the comments of his advisors and close associates than may typically be warranted. As it stands now, at best, Obama looks like a crap shoot on Israel, with those of us who support our staunch ally most likely to roll craps.

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