It was for this reason that I was also perplexed at my friend Dr. Ben Chouake’s comments in the Jewish Week when he said that he and powerful NORPAC, which he heads, would be supporting Rothman over my candidacy. “I’m a registered Republican,” Dr. Ben said. “I like Shmuley. I’ve been to his house. He’s been to my house. I’ve done some projects with him. He’s a tremendously talented person. He’s a gifted orator, no question about it.” However when it comes to getting the job done, “I don’t know that he can’t do it, but I don’t know that he can. He’s never held public office.”
Firstly, recent polls about congressional job approval have shown a collective approval rating at about nine percent, and Dr. Ben is well aware of the fact that most Americans see incumbency as a liability. Secondly, Rothman is the same Congressman who declared in May, 2010, while Obama’s policies toward Israel were still abysmal, that Obama was, “the best president on U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation in American history.” I quickly responded with a column in the Huffington Post criticizing Rothman’s statement as absurd. Remember, Rothman made this claim before Obama even shifted course on his lopsided pressure on Israel. (http://www.huffingtonpost.
Doesn’t the pro-Israel community have a right to expect that a Congressman who claims to be staunchly pro-Israel will break with the President when he mistreats Israel, even if they are in the same party?
Witness the difference between Congressman Rothman and Senator Charles Schumer, both Democrats. When the Obama Administration publicly upbraided Israel over its policies of building in Jerusalem, Senator Schumer, as reported in Politico, went public in April, 2010, calling the Obama administration’s stance “counter-productive.” He threatened to “blast” the Administration if the State Department did not back down from its “terrible” rebuke of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
“This has to stop,” he said of the administration’s policy of publicly condemning Israel’s construction of housing in Jerusalem.
“I told the President, I told Rahm Emanuel and others in the administration that I thought the policy they took to try to bring about negotiations is counter-productive, because when you give the Palestinians hope that the United States will do its negotiating for them, they are not going to sit down and talk… Palestinians don’t really believe in a state of Israel. They, unlike a majority of Israelis, who have come to the conclusion that they can live with a two-state solution to be determined by the parties, the majority of Palestinians are still very reluctant, and they need to be pushed to get there… If the U.S. says certain things and takes certain stands the Palestinians say, ‘Why should we negotiate?'” Schumer said.
But Rothman’s reaction to the President’s pressure was silence. Rothman has never broken with President Obama on anything.
One would think that, given the considerable leverage that NORPAC has right now with Rothman, in choosing to support him over Bill Pascrell, his democratic challenger, Chouake would at least extract a guarantee that if Obama regresses to his old ways of applying undue pressure on Israel, Rothman will break with the President and publicly criticize administration policies. But to simply give Rothman a blank check and unconditional endorsement as being so strongly pro-Israel when he never once criticized the President even as Obama treated Israel abysmally is to invite a repeat of Rothman’s inaction.
Say what you want about Jimmy Carter but at least his disdain for Israel and its leadership was out in the open and consistent. Here is a man who outrageously compared Israel in his book Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid to apartheid South Africa. Likewise, Clinton, who as President treated Netanyahu mostly with contempt, attacked him yet again in September of last year as an obstacle to peace.
But Obama’s doublespeak when microphones are off and on is troubling. If the President dislikes Bibi, let him not play games with the American Jewish community and feign friendship for votes. After all, Obama came to the White House as the anti-politician, a man who was going to change the ways of Washington. A leader who was going to say what he means and mean what he says.
How disappointing to discover he is guilty of the same beltway double-speak he once condemned. How disappointing to discover that our President is simply yet another politician. And how worrisome to ponder what his policies on Israel will be once he has greater ‘flexibility.’