This is the first letter I’ve ever written in the hope that the “social media” winds take it not just to people I know, but also to people I’ve never met and to places I’ll never see.
I do so because I’m deeply troubled by how the Jewish community is being flooded with inaccurate and sometimes inflammatory attacks on President Obama, claiming that he is not a strong supporter of Israel.
I do so because as a Jewish senator and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I feel a responsibility to share what I have personally seen and what I know about Barack Obama and Israel.
As I write this, U.S. and Israeli forces are engaged in a large joint military exercise. We hold these exercises regularly. But this is the largest joint exercise we have held with Israel, involving over 3,500 U.S. troops, about 1/3 of them deployed to Israel for 3 weeks.
This exercise comes at a critical moment for putting massive pressure on Iran to end any quest for a nuclear weapon.
The joint exercise will dramatize our joint military capability to defend against an Iranian missile attack. The exercise combines U.S. Patriot batteries and Aegis ship radar with Israel’s Arrow, Iron Dome and David’s Sling missile defenses. These Israeli missile defenses received significant funding by the U.S. and have been strongly supported by President Obama.
As Iran decides whether to try to build a nuclear weapon, Iranian leaders will now have to factor in more than ever that they will not be able to deter a strike against a nuclear weapon facility by threatening to retaliate with their missiles. Iran’s leaders can’t do so because a retaliatory threat by them or by their allies Hezbollah or Hamas has been degraded by Israel’s and our combined missile defenses, as demonstrated by the current joint exercise.
I have seen up close how President Obama has acted in many other ways to strengthen Israel’s military capability.
Ehud Barak, Israel’s current Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, recently put it this way:
I should tell you honestly that this Administration, under President Obama, is dong in regard to our security more than anything I can remember in the past. (July 11, 2012)
Prime Minister Netanyahu himself told the AIPAC Conference in May of this year:
Our security cooperation is unprecedented. And President Obama has backed his words with deeds.
President Obama has also made clear that he will not permit Iran to get a nuclear weapon. For instance:
“It’s my firm belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would pose a security threat not only to the region but also to the United States.” (November 14, 2011)
“My policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. And as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are at the table, I mean it.” (March 5, 2012)
Iran must know from the record of President Obama, including his use of force in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, that he doesn’t bluff or bluster.
He is a serious man.
He speaks carefully.
He doesn’t flip flop around.
He doesn’t throw words around carelessly.
Iran has seen him act — his warnings aren’t idle threats.
President Obama has succeeded in unifying the world against Iran with biting sanctions. Those sanctions have done major damage to Iran’s oil revenues (they are down by 60% over the last year) and to its currency (the value of which is down by 80% over the last year).
In part because of the respect in which he is held around the world, he has also succeeded in the challenging environment at the UN in preventing unfair damage to Israel at a number of crucial moments, including stopping a UN condemnation of Israel when it prevented a flotilla of ships from forcing itself through its blockade of Gaza.
President Reagan is rightly remembered as a strong friend of Israel, although he led the world’s condemnation of Israel at the UN when Israel knocked out Iraq’s threatening nuclear facility. I’m amazed how some in our community judge President Obama, who has prevented unfair condemnation of Israel at the UN, by a different standard.
I have seen President Obama act forcefully to protect Israeli citizens at Israel’s embassy in Cairo when a violent mob recently came within minutes of reaching and attacking them. Here is what Prime Minister Netanyahu said about President Obama’s actions:
I requested President Obama’s assistance at a decisive — I would even say fateful — moment. He said he would do everything possible, and this is what he did. He activated all of United States’ means and influence — which are certainly considerable. I believe we owe him a special debt of gratitude.
By any standard, fairly and consistently applied, President Obama has been a proven friend of Israel.
Support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship has been bipartisan, and it is essential it remain so for our security and for Israel’s security. It is harmful to that relationship and to Israel for some in our community to attempt to drive a wedge between the Obama administration and Israel.
I won’t comment here on the many other reasons I support President Obama. My goal is to simply express my abhorrence at blatantly unfair, inaccurate and sometimes inflammatory claims that President Obama is not a strong supporter of the U.S. — Israel relationship, when that relationship is important to U.S. security and to the goal of Middle East peace.
I hope that this effort will succeed in utilizing the internet’s ability to have one’s thoughts shared broadly. If you believe they are worthy or interesting, please share them with your friends.