We’ve been hearing a lot from Jewish Democrats and the administration itself that Barack Obama is the best friend Israel has ever had or, as in Joe Biden’s fractured fairy tale version of history, “has done more for Israel’s security than any president since Harry Truman” – a president who actually did nothing for Israel’s security.
The incessant sniping and attempts to pressure Israel during the first three years of the Obama administration makes this hyperbole the height of absurdity. But it is possible to overstate Obama’s hostility to Israel and its government.
The issue now is not so much what the president has done with regard to Israel. After three years of hostility, his reelection effort has given birth to a full-blown Jewish charm offensive that, if it were to continue into a second term, would do much to allay the concerns of even his most fervent critics.
The question in the minds of most friends of Israel is what will happen when a re-elected Obama has the “flexibility” to do as he likes with regard to the Jewish state and the Middle East. In that regard, the recent report in Politico about Obama sitting down with a group of left-wing pundits, many of whom have views wildly out of touch with the reality of the Middle East, to brainstorm about how to deal with the region and, in particular Israel, has to scare mainstream pro-Israel Democrats.
That the president is listening to people like Peter Beinart, David Remnick and Joe Klein tells us all we need to know about how long the Jewish charm offensive will last after a November victory for the Democrats.
In Obama’s defense, it must be admitted that he has done nothing to sabotage the alliance. He has, in fact, done the right thing in continuing existing funding lines such as the Iron Dome missile defense system, though his attempt to claim credit for a project that was initiated under George W. Bush is insufferable.
While he has undermined that alliance by doing more to undermine Israel’s hold on Jerusalem than any predecessor and broken new ground with his attempt to make the 1967 lines the basis for negotiations, he has also done the right thing at the UN and said the right things about the Iranian nuclear threat – even if he hasn’t done anything about it yet.
It should also be stated that some of those in the meeting are respected voices on the Middle East. Jeffrey Goldberg is a die-hared Obama cheerleader, but he is also an intelligent and informed reporter on the Middle East. The Washington Post’s David Ignatius is also a serious writer on the subject, even if he is wrong much of the time.
But Beinart, Klein and Remnick are obsessive critics of Israel’s government who have conclusively demonstrated during the years that they don’t have the faintest idea of what makes Israelis tick or what the problems on the ground there really are.
And though Klein and Remnick are virulent and foolish in their anger at the refusal of Israel’s prime minister to do what they tell him to do, they are, at least, knowledgeable about the country, something no one who has read Beinart’s book could credibly accuse him of being.
The point here is that the president of the United States needs advice from people who understand the reality of Israel’s peace process dilemma in which the Palestinians refuse to make peace under any circumstances. He also needs to hear from people who can help him deal with the Israel that actually exists, not the American Jewish liberal version of the Jewish state that exists in the imaginations of the likes of Beinart, who is currently touring the country advocating boycotts of some Israelis.
Contrary to Beinart, Klein and Remnick, Israel doesn’t need to be saved from itself via American pressure. To the extent their views reinforce Obama’s existing hostility, the meeting is a harbinger of a second term that might make the first three years of Obama’s presidency look like a golden age for the U.S.-Israel alliance.
Jonathan S. Tobin is senior online editor of Commentary magazine and chief political blogger at www.commentarymagazine.com, where this originally appeared. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.