Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Obama has made Israel stronger than ever

 A famous scholar of American Jewish life once observed that we “earn like Episcopalians and vote like Puerto Ricans”.  We are committed to building a just and compassionate society and want our nation to provide a safety net with basic social services, even if we might not personally benefit from such programs.

We also know that on women’s issues, on gay rights, on Medicare, and on making sound investments in our economic future there is simply no comparison between the parties.  Between President Obama’s humane values and the Republican dog-eat-dog vision for society.

The Republicans know that they cannot hope to appeal to Jewish voters when domestic issues are what’s on the table.  Rather than offering a sensible domestic program that our community might support, they have therefore courted our votes the only way they know how: on foreign policy.  But try as they might, the GOP cannot obliterate the fact that President Obama has spent four years making our ally Israel stronger than ever before.

Faced with this daunting situation, Mitt Romney and the GOP have built a campaign for Jewish votes on rumor and innuendo, suggesting that we have somehow thrown Israel “under the bus”.  They have used Super PACs and unfettered secret money to fuel a massive negative advertising campaign targeted at Jewish voters.  But they keep coming up against an inconvenient obstacle: the truth.

President Obama has demonstrated a very serious commitment to defending Israel against Iran.  He has rejected a policy of merely trying to contain and deter an Iran armed with nuclear weapons.  Instead, he has vowed he will never permit Iran to get to that point.  And he has made clear he will not shy away from using force to stop Iran’s nuclear program should it get that far.

The Republicans advocate taking a risky gamble on Mitt Romney’s lofty promises, but only President Obama has a proven track record on this issue.   He has imposed more severe unilateral sanctions than ever before and leveraged America’s restored prestige to convince our European allies to embargo Iranian oil.  As a result, Iran’s currency has crashed and its leaders are panicking.

Meanwhile, it seems we learn more information every day about how Mitt Romney has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars from his own fortune in Russian, Chinese, and other foreign companies that do sensitive business with the regime in Iran.  How can we trust Romney’s public promises when his own behavior says otherwise?

Nor can the GOP hide Governor Romney’s repeated gaffes on the campaign trail, which betray a dangerous misunderstanding of Israel’s strategic challenges.  In private settings, not only does he suggest that 47% percent of Americans should be abandoned by their government, but he also mistakenly claims that the West Bank shares a border with Syria and argues that helping Israel seek peace would not be worth his while if elected president.

Many Republican advertisements have even twisted the words of Israeli leaders for domestic political gain. Yet we know that treating Israel like a partisan football is bad for America and bad for Israel.

Far from abandoning Israel, President Obama has helped make the Jewish State stronger than ever before, delivering more military assistance than any prior Republican or Democratic administration.

President Obama has also  provided critical support for Israel’s protection against missile attacks or rockets, doubling our funding for the Arrow and David’s Sling defense systems.  He pioneered the idea of providing U.S. funding for the Iron Dome anti-rocket program that has already begun to save Israeli lives.

Obama secretly gave Israel “bunker buster” bombs in 2009, which Bush repeatedly refused to do, constraining Israel’s capabilities versus Iran. Obama expanded American efforts to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program in secret, and those efforts – including the Stuxnet computer virus – have slowed Iran’s ambitions considerably.

Israel’s leaders know the truth of the President’s record. That’s why Netanyahu told AIPAC that “our security cooperation is unprecedented.” and soon afterwards suggested Obama deserves a “badge of honor” for his defense of Israel at the UN.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has praised the President for Washington’s “wide, all-encompassing, and unprecedented” security cooperation under his watch.  He observed that, “honestly this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything I can remember in the past.”

Put simply, even if he and Netanyahu are not exactly the best of buddies, when it comes to Israel’s security President Obama never says one thing in public and does another in private.  He is a president who feels a visceral, personal commitment and then follows through.  A commitment to Israel’s defense.  A commitment to fighting nuclear proliferation, starting with Iran.  As journalist Jeffrey Goldberg describes it, a leader who really feels it in his kishkes.

President Barack Obama has passed the kishke test.  Now, there’s one more problem for Republicans: can we really say the same about Mitt Romney?

Dr. Weinberg is a Non-Resident Fellow at the UCLA Center for Middle East Development and formerly served as a Mideast advisor to the late Representative Tom Lantos.


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