— by Marcel Groen
I’ve started to notice a particular sentiment return to the Jewish community in the past few months. Maybe you remember its last iteration from 2008, when fear mongers tried to convince us that Barack Obama wouldn’t support Israel as president. Today, we’re hearing that President Obama is soft on Iran, that he doesn’t have Israel’s true interests at heart or that he wants Israel to give up too much at too great a cost.
But that doesn’t bother me as much as that these allegations are just plain wrong.
Some Jewish leaders have opposed a political division within the Jewish community about something both parties agree upon. Maybe they aren’t wrong; we do neither Israel nor ourselves any favor when we politicize the action of an administration that stands with Israel. Nor do we do much good when we play on the fears of our own community.
We, as Jews and lovers of Zion, must recognize how blessed we are to have a leader who shares our values and commitment to the State of Israel. Our country and the President’s administration have a lasting, unshakable and undeniable commitment to Israel and its security. We shouldn’t let anyone try to tell us otherwise.
Maybe you heard about the President’s speech to the Union of Reform Judaism’s General Assembly in December, when he kvetched about the short skirts his daughter wants to wear to her friends’ Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Hysterical. But one serious thing he did was to reassure us that he will continue, as always, to stand by Israel.
He stands by Israel, which is under attack by rockets from Gaza, which sees an Iran threatening her security, and which sees an Arab Spring that brings deep uncertainty to the region. And the President stands by Israel not just with his words, but with his deeds.
Just look at military co-operation between our two countries – it’s never been better than it is today. The President strongly believes that the Israeli Defense Forces should maintain a qualitative military edge over those who seek to destroy it. That’s why he made sure Israel got the vital security funding it needed to build the Iron Dome system to shoot down rockets from Gaza.
And the President has done much more. When others tried to isolate Israel in September, President Obama strongly declared to the United Nations that he, and the United States, would always have Israel’s back. Then he did what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called a “badge of honor”: He blocked Palestinian attempts to get around direct negotiation with Israel and pursue statehood unilaterally.
President Obama has always opposed attempts to delegitimize Israel. He has repeatedly supported Israel’s right to negotiate with a Palestinian government that recognizes Israel’s right to exist and pledges to forgo violence and honor previous agreements.
The President understands that a nuclear Iran constitutes an existential threat to Israel and has forcefully stated so in public and private discussions with our allies. Then he backed up those words with action, signing the toughest sanctions against Iran to date, while encouraging our allies around the world to implement tougher sanctions as well.
I’m not the only one who knows that our President stands with Israel. Israeli ambassador Michael Oren has frequently called President Obama a true friend of Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly praised the President’s efforts on behalf of Israel. And Prime Minister Netanyahu echoed those same sentiments in his speech to Congress last year.
So next time you hear someone questioning President Obama’s commitment to Israel, tell them to look at the facts. We can’t forget how lucky we are to live in a country that institutionally shares our commitment to Israel’s safety, welfare and survival. That commitment has stayed true for decades. Today, because of President Obama, it is stronger than ever.
Marcel Groen, of Warrington, is a Philadelphia attorney and chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Party.