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June 30, 2015 / 13 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Bill Clinton’

Bill Clinton as Father of the Year

Sunday, January 13th, 2013

The news that Bill Clinton was chosen as father of the year by The National Father’s Day Council has brought for the scoffers. Really, the dude with Monica Lewinsky? The man who humiliated his wife?

They’re wrong. A man can be an imperfect husband and still be a great Dad. In fact, it’s become something of a national crisis. There are way too many men who love their kids more than their wives when, in truth, a healthy marriage dictates that the relationship between the parents always has to come first.

Countless wives who have come to me for counseling complain that they are married to indifferent, unromantic, selfish husbands. Yet, when I ask them, “Does he neglect his kids the way he neglects you?,” the majority of the time they say, “Actually, no. He’s a great Dad.” Even women who have divorced their husbands and told me what miserable marriages they were in will then tell me that, remarkably, their ex continues to be an engaged and loving Dad.

I’m reading The Patriarch, David Nasaw’s magisterial book about Joseph Kennedy. What the biography shows is that Kennedy was a deeply anti-Semitic, compulsively adulterous, misogynist. But boy did he love his kids. A man who put making money before almost all else, the exception was dropping everything whenever his kids were ill. To be sure, there were horror stories like the lobotomy of his daughter Rosemarie. But by and large, though he was an awful, philandering husband who  his wife with endless affairs, he was extremely attached to his kids.

Which brings us to Bubba.

A few months ago, while I was sitting at the JCC in Manhattan at a lecture that featured my friend Rabbi Marc Schneier of Westhampton and was moderated by Chelsea Clinton, I was suddenly disturbed by a rush of men with noodles coming out of their ears. Bill Clinton came in and sat in the seat right in front of me. His daughter was on stage and he wanted to see her. He arrived very quietly and was clearly there to show his daughter support. Then, this past Summer, Clinton toured a country very close to my heart, Rwanda, for his Clinton Global Initiative. In so many of the pictures he is walking around with one hand on his daughter’s shoulder. Not even his biggest critics deny that he is a loving and involved father who has given his daughter great confidence in herself as a woman, even as he has, most assuredly, caused her pain by acts of unfaithfulness that hurt her mother, all the more so because they were so public.

The two are not incongruous. You can be a great father even if you’re not exactly the greatest spouse.

Of course, it’s best to try and be both.

Everyone Expecting Hillary Home Run in 2016

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

It is no surprise that folks are already inking in Hillary Clinton’s name as the top pick for the Democratic party’s nominee for president in 2016.  But it is, perhaps, surprising that even top Republicans are anticipating not just a run, but are predicting that Clinton will be unbeatable.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was on NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday, December 9.  He and others on the program predicted it would be “virtually impossible” for any Democrat to beat Clinton in the race to be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016.

Gingrich told viewers there might be another familiar name on the ballot in 2016 – he was speaking about former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.  If that happens, everyone will be able to re-use their political buttons from old campaigns – President George H.W. Bush ran against Bill Clinton in 1992.  That time around Clinton was considered by almost all pro-Israel supporters as the candidate more favorable for Israel.

Clinton’s approval ratings have always been high amongst American Jews – this was true even after the infamous “Suha Smooch.”

Back in November, 1999, Hillary Clinton was seated on the stage next to the wife of the Palestinian Liberation Organization president Yasir Arafat, when Suha Arafat gave a speech.  In that speech Mrs. Arafat claimed that Israelis used toxic chemicals daily to poison ‘Palestinian’ women and children.  Although Mrs. Clinton had a simultaneous translation as the speech was given, when Arafat finished speaking, Mrs. Clinton stood up, then kissed and embraced Arafat.

That embrace became the star of the first-ever airing of a television ad paid for by the Republican Jewish Coalition.  Clinton’s misstep initially cost her with the Jewish community, but she recovered and went on to become a two-term U.S. Senator from New York.

In fact, according to political analysts, Clinton received the bulk of the Jewish vote and donations in the Democratic presidential primary in 2008.

And just as the vast majority of American Jews forgave Clinton for the Suha Smooch, it should surprise few that the vast majority of American Jews paid little mind to words she uttered last week at the Saban Forum hosted by the Brookings Institution, held in Washington, D.C.

Secretary of State Clinton was the keynote speaker at the Saban Forum on November 30.  In her speech, Clinton extolled the virtues of the U.S. administration’s relationship with Israel and reiterated the campaign talking points describing this administration as Israel’s best friend.

During the unscripted question and answer session, Clinton charged the Israelis – the Jewish people – with not understanding or feeling the pain of an oppressed people.  She responded to a query raised by Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan regarding the suspicious nature of Israelis:

So, look, I’m not making excuses for the missed opportunities of the Israelis, or the lack of generosity, the lack of empathy that I think goes hand-in-hand with the suspicion. So, yes, there is more that the Israelis need to do to really demonstrate that they do understand the pain of an oppressed people in their minds, and they want to figure out, within the bounds of security and a Jewish democratic state, what can be accomplished.

Clinton also subtly criticized Israel’s retention of tax funds collected by Israel and earmarked for the  Palestinian Authority. The money was withheld as a small step towards covering the gross delinquency in payment by the PA to Israel for its electricity consumption.

Clinton described Israel’s decision to withhold those funds as an indication of Israel’s lack of generosity, “I think that the more generous Israel can be on everything from expediting the tax revenues that Israel collects and then remits to the ‘Palestinians,'” the closer it will bring peace to the region.  Clinton described the PA  as not only moderate and secular, but as also successful and having “accomplished quite a bit” with “very little money,” and “no natural resources.”  The billions of dollars in international aid received by the PA over the years apparently did not factor into her evaluation.

Few doubt that Clinton will seek her party’s nomination in 2016.  And fewer still should doubt that American Jews will ignore the Saban Smackdown, just as they ignored the Suha Smooch.

The President And The Rule Of Law: Where Is Bill Clinton?

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

Soon after the oral argument in the Supreme Court on Obamacare, when it appeared there was considerable skepticism among the justices as to its constitutionality, President Obama expressed the view that it would be “unprecedented” for the unelected court to overturn legislation passed by an elected legislature. But not only did the president’s words fly in the face of the court’s role as ultimate arbiter of a law’s constitutionality, he has arrogated to himself the right to unilaterally override legislative enactments. We have already noted, for example, his effectively amending U.S. immigration law by creating an exemption in the law, which Congress has refused to enact, for certain illegals in terms of deportation.

Within hours of the Obamacare argument in the Supreme Court, when it appeared likely Obamacare would be struck down, President Obama issued a statement in which he said,

There is not only an economic element to this, a legal element to this, but there is a human element to this. And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.

And I would like to remind conservative commentators that for years what we have heard is that the biggest problem is judicial activism and that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.

To be sure, the president is a nationally elected figure, yet his role, in the words of the Constitution, is to “take care that the laws [enacted by Congress] be faithfully executed….”

Yet earlier this month the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to strike down various provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act, overwhelmingly passed by Congress in 1966 (the House vote was 342-67, with two members voting present and 22 not voting while the tally in the Senate was 85-14 with one member not voting) and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

Indeed, House Republicans have had to retain private counsel to defend the 16-year-old law because the Obama administration has declined to defend it in court. (Worthy of note is the fact that no state referendum seeking approval of same sex marriage has ever passed.)

However, Mr. Obama, who on May 9of this year became the first president to publicly express his support for same-sex marriage, believes the Defense of Marriage Act, which denies same-sex couples legally married under state law the federal benefits afforded to heterosexual couples, should not be enforced, in direct contradiction of a lopsided congressional vote to the contrary.

Another Clinton-era law enacted by Congress was welfare reform, which contained as a key provision the requirement that welfare beneficiaries must find and maintain some sort of employment in order to qualify for federally funded assistance. Last week, however, the Obama administration , through a memo from the Department of Health and Human Services, asserted it had the authority to waive that requirement and advised state welfare agencies they no longer had to enforce it.

The HHS claim is astonishing and palpably lawless. HHS is relying on two provisions of the Social Security Act which are among several that govern federal welfare programs. Section 402 requires states to submit an administrative plan to the federal government describing how they will spend federal welfare funds. However, Section 1115 also authorizes HHS to issue certain waivers to various sections, including 402, so that a state can experiment with different approaches. The HHS memo claims it is relying on Section 1115. So the HHS theory seems to be that since it can relieve states from the requirement that they provide a welfare-spending plan to HHS, HHS can also relieve them of the requirement that welfare recipients need to work in order to qualify.

This alone shows how much of a stretch this all is. But in addition there is the little matter that part of the language of Section 1115 is: “[A] waiver granted under Section 1115 or otherwise…shall not affect the applicability of Section 407 to the State.” And it is Section 407 that requires welfare recipients to work in order to receive benefits.

Paid for by Charles Bronfman, ‘Jewish Stars’ Attack Pro-Settlement Report

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Forty U.S. Jewish leaders sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing concerns about the findings of an Israeli judicial committee that said Judea and Samaria settlements are legal.

The letter, initiated and organized by the Israel Policy Forum (IPF), was delivered Sunday to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“As strong advocates for Israel’s security and well-being as a Jewish and democratic state, we are deeply concerned about the recent findings of the government commission led by Supreme Court Jurist (Ret.) Edmund Levy,” the letter read. “We fear that if approved, this report will place the two-state solution, and the prestige of Israel as a democratic member of the international community, in peril.”

IPF, which used to be the darling of former president Bill Clinton, who used an IPF gala in 2001 to unveil his Clinton Parameters for Arab-Israel peacemaking, has greatly diminished in influence and presence in recent years. But a June report by JTA suggested the organization is being pulled out of mothballs to become the prestigious pro-2-State Jewish powerhouse which J-Street just isn’t.

The group that has restarted IFP is made up of Jewish stars in search of a steady employment: Aaron David Miller, a former negotiator in the first Bush and Clinton administrations, Eric Yoffie, who just ended his term as president of the Union for Reform Judaism, and Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), who is retiring from office. With funding from philanthropist Charles Bronfman, the resurrection appears all but certain.

Charles Bronfman is Co-Chairman of Birthright Israel International, a successful program providing an educational travel experience to Israel for young Jewish adults aged 18 to 26.

The IPF rhetoric is the same old tired stuff, extremely 1999:

“A two-state solution – an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip existing peacefully alongside Israel – is an imperative.”

As if the past ten years or so, with thousands of Palestinian rockets and mortar shells dropping on Israeli civilian populations, are not even a speck of schmootz on their rosy glasses, as if the evacuation of thousands of Jews has not led to untold suffering for both Jews and Arabs, as if every Israeli attempt to urge on a concession has not been met with torrents of violence, the 2-staters push on:

“It is the only way to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ensure Israel’s security and future as a Jewish and democratic state.  It is also in the interests of the United States, Israel, the Palestinians and the international community.”

But would to do if the Arabs once again react to Israeli peace gestures with fire? Not to worry, IFP has a solution:

“Israel’s security is a core American interest,” they declare (now, that’s a relief). and: “Terrorism, violence and incitement are central impediments to peace in the region and should be collectively and explicitly renounced. Similarly, rockets targeting innocent civilians along Israel’s northern and southern borders should be condemned by the United States.”

There you go – if Jews start getting killed all over the place, God forbid, this will not go by without the strongest condemnation from the U.S. government!

Signatories on the IFP letter to Netanyahu include the aforementioned Charles Bronfman, who is joined by fellow-philanthropist Lester Crown; Marvin Lender, the former national chairman of United Jewish Appeal; Deborah Lipstadt, Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University; Bernard Nussbaum, former White House counsel; Richard Pearlstone, former chairman of The Jewish Agency ; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

This group of Jewish leaders between jobs has discovered the platform that would pay their rent for the foreseeable future, and will utilize their skills in one direction: getting Israel back to a position of weakness, torn by internal conflict over the future of the settlements, and once again exposed to Arab violence.

The IFP gang is receiving its first important task, to throw its full, prestigious weight against the findings of an exceptionally distinguished jurist, retired Supreme Court justice Edmond Levy. The Levy committee 89-page report released last week has established what has been known for decades, that “Israel does not meet the criteria of ‘military occupation’ as defined under international law” in Judea and Samaria, and therefore settlements and outposts there are legal.

IFP deals with Levy with the kind of flippant approach Bill Clinton would have appreciated:

“Securing Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state requires diplomatic and political leadership, not legal maneuverings,” they wrote Netanyshu.

See, this is not about justice, it’s about getting things done. What things? Well, justice for the Palestinians, of course.

And, as always in the U.S. Jewish left’s dealings with Israel, there’s the unveiled threat:

“…our great fear is that the Levy Report will not strengthen Israel’s position in this conflict, but rather add fuel to those who seek to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist.”

See? In the end it’s not about solutions, or about priorities, or about—God forbid—the rule of law. In the end it comes to if you don’t do as we say you’ll die.

Finally, somewhere on the list of 40, you’ll rather incongruously find Conservative Rabbi Daniel Gordis, President of the Shalem Center, who’s been making such a profound case all over You Tube for Israel’s need to exist, debating Peter Beinart who sees the settlements as the mother of all evils – what happened to Gordis? Is he over his conflict? Did he go over to the dark side?

Anyway, at this point it is clear that Israel would do much better with fewer friends…

UJA content was used in this article.

Anti-Islamist Protesters Pelt Hillary’s Motorcade with Tomatoes, Shoes

Monday, July 16th, 2012

As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s armored car motorcade was riding through the Egyptian port city of Alexandria where she had given a speech on democratic rights, a tomato hit an accompanying Egyptian official in the face, and shoes and a water bottle were thrown at Hillary’s car, Reuters reports.

According to a senior U.S. official, said Clinton herself was not hit, since her vehicle had already turned a corner by the time of the incident. But she may have been able to hear the taunts of “Monica, Monica” which the protesters were chanting, a reference to the extra-marital affair conducted by her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Others had chanted the Arabic equivalent of ” Clinton go home,” according to an Egyptian security official.

According to Al Ahram, several liberal and Christian politicians and public figures condemned Clinton’s visit to Egypt, accusing the United States of favoring Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups. There were several large demonstrations by liberal parties and movements, including the Free Egyptians party and the Front for Peaceful Change, against Clinton’s visit outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo, the presidential palace and the Four Seasons hotel in which Clinton was staying. The demonstrators were joined by supporters of Mubarak-era vice president Omar Suleiman.

A large group of Christian politicians – including Coptic MP Emad Gad, rights activist Michael Mounir, former MP Georgette Qeleini and business tycoon Naguib Sawiris, refused to meet with Clinton during her brief visit to Egypt.

In a joint statement on Sunday, they expressed their displeasure with Clinton’s decision to meet with members of Egypt’s Coptic-Christian community following earlier meetings with Muslim Brotherhood members and Salafists. They asserted that Clinton’s move served to “promote sectarian divisions.”

Clinton met with women and Christians, two groups with reasons to fear repression under a Muslim Brotherhood government.

“I will be honest and say some have legitimate fears about their future,” Clinton told reporters. “I said to them … no Egyptian, no person anywhere, should be persecuted for their faith, or their lack of faith, for their choices about working and not working. Democracy is not just about reflecting the will of the majority. It is also about protecting the rights of the minority.”

Clinton said the U.S. had learned that “the hard way,” pointing out that the U.S. constitution originally did not protect the rights of women or slaves.

Al Ahram reported that on Saturday the Front for Peaceful Change, a pro-revolution youth group, issued a statement calling on the Egyptian public to participate in the protests to register its rejection of perceived U.S. interference in Egypt’s affairs and its deal-making with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Al Ahram cites accusations of a secret agreement which was hammered out between the U.S. and the Brotherhood, which the paper says is a common refrain among the opponents of Clinton’s visit.

Emad Gad, a Coptic-Christian member of Egypt’s recently dissolved lower house of parliament, saw Clinton’s visit to Cairo in the context of an alleged U.S.-Brotherhood deal that enabled candidate Mohamed Morsi to assume Egypt’s presidency.

“In exchange for Morsi’s being named president, the Brotherhood is expected to protect Israel’s security by pressuring Hamas – the Brotherhood’s branch in Palestine – not to launch military attacks against Israel, and even accept a peace agreement with Tel Aviv,” Gad told Al-Ahram.

Gad, whom Al Ahram introduces as a prominent political analyst, told the paper that the U.S. was also supporting the Brotherhood in return for maintaining Mubarak-era agreements not to restore ties with Iran.

On Saturday night, according to Reuters, protesters outside Clinton’s Cairo hotel chanted anti-Islamist slogans, accusing the United States of engineering the Muslim Brotherhood’s rise to power.

In her speech at the recently re-opened U.S. consulate in Alexandria, Clinton rejected suggestions that the United States, which had been an avid supporter of the deposed Mubarak, was backing one faction over another in Egypt.

“I want to be clear that the United States is not in the business, in Egypt, of choosing winners and losers, even if we could, which of course we cannot,” Clinton said.

“We are prepared to work with you as you chart your course, as you establish your democracy,” she added. “We want to stand for principles, for values, not for people or for parties.”

Lieberman Scaled Political Heights, But Wants Shabbat To Be His Legacy

Wednesday, August 10th, 2011

WASHINGTON – Call Joe Lieberman the unlikely evangelist. The Independent senator from Connecticut – and the best-known Orthodox Jew in American politics – is probably more cognizant than most of his Jewish congressional colleagues about rabbinical interdictions against encouraging non-Jews to mimic Jewish ritual.

Yet here he is, about to release a book advising Christians and others not to drive to church, to welcome their Sabbath in the evening, to cut off the wired world and to enjoy your significant other.

Meeting with Lieberman in his Senate offices last week, before the Aug. 16 release date of his new book, The Gift of Rest: Rediscovering the Beauty of the Sabbath, he laughed at the term evangelical. But he also embraced it.

“In a way it is” evangelical, he said.

Not that he wanted to convert anyone, Lieberman emphasized. 

“This gift, I wanted not only to share with Jews who are not experiencing it, who haven’t accepted it, but also in some measure to appeal to Christians to come back to their observance of their Sabbath on Sundays,” he said.

Lieberman does so in a surprisingly engaging read – surprisingly because books by politicians fronted by photos where they pose in studied, open-collared casualness are usually a recipe for a surfeit of encomiums packed with feel-goodness but bereft of intellectual nourishment.

Instead, melding an unlikely array of tales ranging from 16th-century Safed to tension-soaked Republican and Democratic back rooms, Lieberman makes the case for a structured day of rest that offers freedom within iron walls. 

The book also provides a glimpse into how religion shaped this most adamant of congressional centrists, whose stubborn hewing to his beliefs brought him within shouting distance of the vice presidency before propelling him toward the end of his political career (Lieberman will not seek reelection in 2012).

One potent example of Lieberman’s championing of freedom through restrictions is how the dictates of the holy day liberate him from his BlackBerry.

“Six days a week, I’m never without this little piece of plastic, chips and wires that miraculously connect me to the rest of the world and that I hope makes me more efficient, but clearly consumes a lot of my time and attention,” he writes. “If there were no Sabbath law to keep me from sending and receiving email all day as I normally do, do you think I would be able to resist the temptation on the Sabbath? Not a chance. Laws have this way of setting us free.”

As it turns out, this has been a book Lieberman has been considering for a while. He says the seeds of it reach as far back as his first run for state senator in 1970, when his Sabbath observance first created logistical problems for his campaign staff.

It emerged full force when Al Gore named him as his running mate in 2000. In Lacrosse, Wis., on a Saturday after the announcement, he found people coming out of their homes to greet him and wish him well as he walked to the local synagogue.

Conversations with Christians and their curiosity about his observance crystallized the idea for the book, he said.

“This is something I thought about doing for a long time,” Lieberman said, “because the Sabbath has meant so much for me. It’s really been a foundation for my life.”

The book is published by Simon & Schuster’s Howard imprint in conjunction with OU Press. Lieberman co-wrote it with David Klinghoffer, a politically conservative (and Orthodox Jewish) columnist and author, in consultation with Rabbi Menachem Genack, who runs the Orthodox Union’s kashrut division and with whom Lieberman takes a weekly telephone class.

Renewed Question Of Obama’s Gut Feelings Toward Jews, Israel

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011


WASHINGTON – Does President Obama need a “Shalom Chaver” moment a la Bill Clinton?


Renewed questioning of what the president feels in his gut toward Israel and the Jewish people was prompted by the Obama administration’s late and qualified response to last week’s naming of a square for Dalal Mughrabi, a terrorist who helped mastermind a 1978 bus attack that killed 37 Israeli civilians and an American photographer.


The hurt feelings were sharpened by the massacre over the previous weekend of an Israeli couple and three of their children in their home in the Itamar settlement in the West Bank.


Malcolm Hoenlein, the executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, noted the Mughrabi square naming at a Manhattan memorial service for the murdered Fogel family members from Itamar.


“If governments, even our own, do not stand out and shriek and condemn and take action when they see this kind of action by the Palestinian Authority and their representatives” – and the incitement continues despite repeated promises – then “we must make sure that our voices are heard,” Hoenlein said. “We have to demand accountability and that there will be consequences.”


Morton Klein, the president of the Zionist Organization of America, asked what the president feels “in his soul” – a reference to disputed reports that in a meeting with Jewish leaders last month, Obama asked them to “search their souls” regarding their desire for peace.


“In light of what President Obama said to us at the White House and in light of this present episode, the ZOA asks a simple question: What does President Obama’s shocking, unbelievable and frightening refusal to condemn the honoring and glorifying of a major Jew-killer by [President Mahmoud] Abbas’s PA, a day after an anti-Israel massacre, tell us about Obama’s true feelings about Jews and Israel?” Klein asked. “Mr. Obama, we respectfully ask you, sir, to ‘search your soul’ to evaluate your feelings and actions and policies toward the Jewish state of Israel.”


President Clinton set the high mark for connecting with Israelis and Jews in his 1995 eulogy at Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral when he encapsulated worldwide Jewish grief in a simple Hebrew phrase: “Shalom chaver” – “Farewell friend.”


President George W. Bush also made clear his affection for the Jewish state, both supporters and detractors agree.


Speaking on the record, most Jewish community leaders dismiss talk about Obama’s “kishkes factor” – what he feels in his gut – as overly focused on the ephemera of emotions and beside the point: The lines of communication with the White House are open, they say, and the president and his staff are responsive to their overtures.


“I would say we have a good line of communication with them,” said Alan Solow, the Presidents Conference chairman and a fundraiser for Obama in 2008. “Our access is both appropriate and excellent. There’s not a problem of communication issue between the Jewish leadership and the White House.”


Solow would not address the kishkes factor, saying it was inappropriate for him to comment.


Speaking on background, however, a number of Jewish community figures – among them those who generally sympathize with the administration’s outlook on Israel – say Obama just doesn’t get it.


“His J-Dar is off,” said one dovish figure who recalled Obama’s first meeting with Jewish leaders in the summer of 2009, when he told them that previous administrations’ policy of not being public about policy disputes with Israel was unproductive.


“It may have been true, but it was not the right thing to say” to Jewish leaders, the official said. “What it implies is that you’re trying to drive a wedge between them and the government of Israel – but you should know that rarely, rarely works because the organized Jewish community supports Israeli governments. He doesn’t get the emotional issue, and maybe even the structural issue.”


Obama’s missed opportunity was not visiting Israel after his June 2009 address to the Muslim world in Cairo, a number of officials have said.


A conservative who has tried to make the case for this White House among like-minded friends and colleagues says Obama’s aloof personality is a problem.


“With Clinton, when he talked to you, it was like you were the most important person in the world,” the official said. “With Obama, it’s like he’s the most important person in the world.”


White House officials tend to audibly sigh when the question arises. They especially chafe at the notion, raised by a number of Israeli and pro-Israeli officials, that there is no immediate “hotline” official in the White House – someone like Elliott Abrams, the Bush administration’s top Middle East staffer, who could be reached at a moment’s notice.


That person in this White House has been Dan Shapiro, who has Abrams’s job, and he has been responsive, according to friends of the White House.


One sympathetic pro-Israel official said that expecting microscopic attention to square namings by West Bank Palestinians was demanding too much of Shapiro.


“He’s just been dealing with that small problem of Libya,” the official commented dryly.


Obama announced recently that Shapiro would be his nominee to be the next U.S. ambassador to Israel.


White House officials say they have tried to be responsive and have engaged with Jewish leaders, and they say it’s a no-win situation: When they do not respond to a given event, like the Mughrabi square naming, they get into trouble, but when they do respond, the response is picked apart for inadequacies.


That damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t-prickliness characterized Jewish reaction to Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in 2009, when he went out of his way to condemn Holocaust denial among Arabs – and was slammed by some Jewish groups for seeming to draw moral equivalence with Palestinian suffering and for neglecting to mention the Jewish people’s biblical roots case for Israel.


The more recent episode, over the Mughrabi square, showed how an administration could stumble. The first response, days after the naming, came from relatively low-level officials and in response to a JTA inquiry, and said the administration was seeking “clarification” on an event that had been widely reported. The Palestinian Authority did not officially sponsor the event, nor did its officials attend it, but officials of Abbas’s Fatah Party were in attendance and Abbas did not reprimand them.


A day later, the State Department’s top official, Mark Toner, explicitly condemned the naming and said the United States “urged” Abbas to address it.


Ori Nir, the spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, suggested such reactions were overwrought.


“Obama does not seem to have internalized yet, or does not seem cognizant yet of the fact that most American Jewish voters are progressive – they support his general agenda,” Nir said. “They typically don’t vote first and foremost on Israel and will probably overwhelmingly vote for him again.”


(JTA)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/renewed-question-of-obamas-gut-feelings-toward-jews-israel-2/2011/03/23/

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