Romney Still Won’t Answer Elie Wiesel

— by Steve Sheffey

Something is not right about a candidate for President of the United States ignoring a request from Elie Wiesel.

It’s now been more than eight months since Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel asked Mitt Romney to “speak to his own church and say they should stop” performing posthumous proxy baptisms on Jews, including Jews who perished in the Holocaust.

The Huffington Post reported on February 14, 2012 that Wiesel, who has devoted his life to fighting intolerance, said that the posthumous baptisms were “not only objectionable” but “scandalous.” Said Wiesel:

“I wonder if as a candidate for the presidency Mitt Romney is aware of what his church is doing. I hope that if he hears about this that he will speak up.”

But as I wrote in April, Romney didn’t speak up. In an email accidentally sent to the Huffington Post reporter, Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho suggested that the campaign ignore the request. And so they have, for eight months.

Even after the Boston Globe reported on February 29, 2012 that members of the Mormon Church posthumously baptized Daniel Pearl, the reporter killed by Islamic terrorists whose last words were an affirmation of his Judaism, Romney said nothing in response to Wiesel’s request.

More after the jump.
The issue is not whether Romney is responsible for this Mormon practice, nor is the issue Romney’s religion. The issue is Romney’s insensitivity to other religious beliefs and concerns, as evidenced by his disrespect for Elie Wiesel, one of the leading moral voices of our time.

Romney can say Wiesel is right about the Mormon Church. Romney can say Wiesel is wrong about the Mormon Church. Romney can say it’s none of Wiesel’s business about the Mormon Church. Instead, Romney says nothing.

Elie Wiesel finds the practice objectionable and scandalous. It’s easy to see why. Some may think that these Mormons aren’t hurting anyone because they are baptizing dead people, but for many people, posthumous baptism is offensive for the same reason spitting on a grave is offensive.

The Boston Globe explained that

“Mormons baptize deceased Jews and members of other religions as part of a rite intended to give them access to salvation… In 1995, the church, after meeting with Jewish leaders, agreed to stop baptizing Holocaust victims. Current church policy encourages church members to baptize their ancestors, but does not explicitly forbid the baptism of deceased Jews and people of other faiths.”

Why won’t Romney answer Elie Wiesel’s questions about where he stands on this practice?

John F. Kennedy addressed concerns about his allegiance to the Pope. Joseph Lieberman addressed concerns about whether his Sabbath observance would interfere with his duties as Vice President.  Jack Lew addressed questions about whether his religious beliefs would interfere with his duties as President Obama’s chief of staff. Yet when called upon by one of the leading moral authorities of our generation, Mitt Romney says nothing.

Romney is running for president. He is answerable not just to Elie Wiesel, but to the American people. Did Romney himself ever participate in posthumous baptisms of Jews or anyone else? Does Romney understand why many Jews find this practice so offensive and if so, what is Romney’s position on this practice?

As Sylvia Gurinsky wrote earlier this month,

“Throughout the campaign, Romney has had a bad habit of not being open about his past actions. His holding back of most of his tax returns is the most public example. It is imperative that Romney answer the proxy baptism question. He and his supporters have criticized President Barack Obama’s supposed disrespect of Israel. But how can Romney possibly respect Israel or the Jewish people if he can’t respect the history of either?”

President Obama’s Jewish Problem

— by Steve Sheffey

Move a Chicagoan to Miami and soon he’ll forget the sleet and snow and start complaining when the temperature drops below 60 degrees.

Relations between Israel and the United States are warmer under President Obama than under previous administrations. Yet we hear that the President has a “Jewish problem.” The problem is not President Obama, but us: We’ve lost historic perspective. We’re criticizing President Obama for what would have gone unnoticed in other administrations.

Gerald Ford and Henry Kissinger threatened to “reassess” America’s relationship with Israel. President Obama has declared that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable,” and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak credited President Obama for the strongest relationship between the two countries ever.

Ronald Reagan suspended arms shipments to Israel, supported a UN resolution criticizing Israel for bombing Iraq’s nuclear reactor, sold sophisticated arms to Saudi Arabia over AIPAC’s strong opposition, and told Israel that “the relationship between our two countries is at stake.” Reagan never visited Israel in his entire life, but he did visit a cemetery where Nazi war dead were buried, over the objections of Elie Wiesel.

George W. Bush rebuked then-prime minister Ariel Sharon in 2003 by rescinding $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. In 2004, the Bush administration abstained rather than veto a UN resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons smuggling.

President Obama’s UN voting record is perfect, he successfully fought UN recognition of a Palestinian state, and just last week, President Obama extended loan guarantees to Israel to 2016. Israeli officials said that the extension is “important evidence” of the special economic relationship between the US and Israel and is also a considerable diplomatic expression of support.

Bush pressured Israel to allow Hamas to participate in Gaza elections, thus conferring on Hamas a legitimacy it could never have otherwise achieved. Perhaps worst of all, Bush made little progress in stopping Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons. President Obama has not negotiated with Hamas. He has mobilized the international community to impose the toughest sanctions ever against Iran and has repeatedly and unambiguously warned Iran that he will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. Period.

President Obama’s pro-Israel accomplishments compare favorably with any Republican president. Yet we keep complaining.

We say he hasn’t visited Israel as president, forgetting that Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton are the only two presidents who visited Israel during their first terms in office. George W. Bush did not visit Israel until his seventh year as president. Ronald Reagan never visited in his entire life. Obama went to Israel as recently as 2006 and 2008, when he visited Sderot and saw first-hand the damage inflicted by Hamas terrorists.

We forget that during his first term, in 2003, George W. Bush visited the Port of Aqaba in Jordan, just nine miles from Israel (closer to Israel than Cairo). But Bush didn’t visit Israel. Instead, Bush said that “we have a problem with Sharon” and was visibly irritated with the then-Prime Minister. Remember how the Democrats exploited this for political gain in the 2004 election? Me neither.

We complain that the Obama administration criticizes Israel’s settlement policy, forgetting that every administration since 1967 has criticized Israel’s settlement policy and that no administration has ever recognized Israeli sovereignty over Jerusalem. But unlike previous Republican administrations,  the Obama administration has never threatened to withhold U.S. aid to Israel because of settlement activity; instead, President Obama has taken U.S. financial assistance to Israel to record levels.

We complain about imagined slights to Prime Minister Netanyahu, forgetting that when the chips were down, President Obama came through for Israel and Netanyahu. When Israel asked for help fighting the Carmel forest fires, President Obama’s response was “get Israel whatever it needs. Now.”

In September 2011, when the late-night call came from Israel to President Obama asking for help in rescuing the Israelis trapped in the Egyptian embassy, Netanyahu himself called it a “decisive and fateful moment,” recalling that Obama “said ‘I will do everything I can.’ And he did.”

The list goes on and on. Obama opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, and successfully derailed Palestinian attempts to unilaterally declare statehood at the UN. He’s done more than any president to thwart Iran’s nuclear ambitions. And Mitt Romney says he’d “do the opposite” when it comes to Israel.  Maybe that’s why so many of Romney’s key foreign policy advisors are hold-overs from the Bush administration.

We hear when Israel is not invited to a conference or is omitted from even the most trivial list. But take another look at an important list, perhaps the most important list of this century: George W. Bush’s list of the Coalition Members for Operation Iraqi Freedom. Bush did not include Israel. Whether we like it or not, George W. Bush and every president, Democratic and Republican, has taken Arab sensibilities into account when formulating foreign policy.

Yet despite the facts, the despite the historic perspective, it’s almost as if some of us want President Obama to be anti-Israel because that would validate our worst fears and confirm our ugliest prejudices. Attacking President Obama on Israel is like attacking John Kerry on his personal military record. The Swift Boat campaign worked because Kerry and his supporters were too slow to take it seriously and fight fiction with facts. The result was four more years of George W. Bush.

Maybe it’s our nature to complain. But President Obama’s words and deeds prove that he is not only a strong friend of Israel, but that he is willing to stand up for Israel publicly and behind the scenes. That’s what matters, and that’s why polling shows that about 70% of American Jews will again vote for President Obama in 2012. Adam Serwer was right:

If President Obama has a Jewish problem, it’s that more Americans aren’t Jewish.

And what about the 30% of American Jews who are voting Republican? My guess is that the percentage would be even less if they read this article from last week’s Forward, which explains that “Jewish Republicans may pretend that they’re pulling a lever for smaller government and more free enterprise. But that same lever advances ignorance, theocracy and religious coercion. Of course, most Jewish Republicans don’t favor the Christian Right’s positions. But that’s what a Republican vote means, and to pretend otherwise is just willful ignorance.” This article is a must-read.  

Another kind of video. This video doesn’t feature ominous music, or attractive women, or emotional images. It’s not slick. It’s for people who think. Dennis Ross, who has served in two Democratic administrations and two Republican administrations, talks about the relationship between Israel and the United States under President Obama.

Israel and Monday’s Foreign Policy Debate


“Israelis on Obama” is a two-minute web video culled from hours of interviews conducted by Rabbi Susan Silverman in Israel over the last three months. The video features interviews with Israelis near the Gaza border, Jerusalem, Herzliya and Tel Aviv and includes experts on Iran, retired IDF officials, and academics. Each was asked what they thought Defense Minister Ehud Barak meant by his comments that President Obama was “doing more than anything he could remember in the past” for Israel’s security.

— by Steve Sheffer

With the election only three weeks away, the Romney campaign has violated a key tenet of pro-Israel advocacy: Support for Israel is and must remain bipartisan. His arguments against President Obama are based on distortions and outright lies.

Romney’s claim that President Obama went on an “apology tour” is false.

Romney’s claim that President Obama “threw Israel under the bus” reveals an astonishing ignorance of President Obama’s record on Israel.

Far from resisting or opposing sanctions, President Obama has imposed the toughest sanctions ever imposed on Iran, and has rallied an unprecedented international coalition against Iran.

President Obama never spoke of the need to create “daylight” between the US and Israel. In fact, Israeli leaders confirm that under President Obama, the degree of military and intelligence cooperation between the US and its “closest ally in the region” (in President Obama’s words) is unprecedented.

Romney’s politicizing of the Libya tragedy is collapsing on itself; yesterday the LA Times reported that there is no evidence of Al Qaeda participation and the Washington Post reported that CIA documents support Susan Rice’s initial account of the attack. Romney’s attacks are also hypocritical, especially given Romney’s own statements in defense of the Bush administration after 9/11.

You can read the details, plus more (including a summary of the President’s record and information about a Romney campaign group that includes critics of Israel and opponents of Iran sanctions) below after the jump.


Ehud Barak and Shim Peres agree: “Obama is the best President for Israel ever.”

The final debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney will be Monday, October 22. The topic is foreign policy.

There was only one foreign policy question asked during Tuesday’s debate. Romney took advantage of the opportunity not only to get his facts wrong on Libya, but to restate his favorite catch-phrases about the President’s foreign policy. Let’s get a few things straight:

Using Israel as a political football is unacceptable.

Dan Gelbar summed it up perfectly:

No less an authority than Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak called President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security “all-encompassing and unprecedented.” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon pronounced, “we have no better friend than President Obama.”

How do you reconcile these unequivocal statements of support by those most knowledgeable about Israel’s security with the television commercials Floridians are hearing this campaign season? How does Mitt Romney claim Obama has “put Israel under the bus” while former Israeli Mossad Director Efraim Halevy says Obama has shown “leadership of historic dimension?” How does the Republican Party run commercials suggesting Obama is a danger to Israel, when Israeli President Shimon Peres calls him “a great friend of Israel?”  

In a word: Politics.

With the election just weeks away and Romney hoping to reverse his fortunes, the Republicans have begun a totally fabricated drumbeat that Obama is bad for Israel. It is an argument based in part on distortion, in part on the fact that the Internet has no truth key, and in part on fear – and yes, prejudice.

But these political attacks are false in every way.


“The bonds between the United States and Isarel are unbreakable.” – President Barack Obama.

Read all of Gelbar’s article here.  If you still have even the slightest concerns, read this excellent article by Professor Steven Spiegel that appeared in the Times of Israel on October 19. It’s a must-read.

Ofer Bavley, the director general of the JUF Israel Office, writes that

Our alliance is based on shared values: democracy, individual freedoms, respect for human rights and the rule of law. This bond is neither a Republican nor a Democrat invention. It connects our two countries in a network of common interests that transcend party politics. Both parties have placed Israel at the top of their agenda whenever they were in power, at the White House or in Congress.  

Ofer concludes that

By using Israel as a wedge issue in U.S. elections, Israel loses its bipartisan place and becomes “another election topic.” By debating Israel, it ceases being a bipartisan point of consensus, it becomes a tool in a battle for votes and in the long run, as part of a political debate, Israel might lose some of the support it now enjoys with both parties. The danger is that Israel might become closely associated with one party or the other. Never mind a presidential term of four years, we can’t even afford to be in the political wilderness for one session of congress.

Bipartisan support for ever-strengthening American-Israeli relations is also cardinal if we wish to strengthen deterrence against our common enemies. They need to understand that no President and no party are “anti-Israel,” that all parties and all candidates stand strongly on the side of Israeli-U.S. relations as a matter of national interest.

No matter who Americans vote for in the coming elections, Israelis know that the U.S. and Israel will stand firmly together. Let us hope that support for Israel is kept in everyone’s heart-and out of the political debate.


President Obama gained the support of Russia, China and other nations to pass United Nations Security Council Resolution 1929 imposing the most comprehensive and crippling sanctions the Iranian government has ever faced.

President Obama never went on an apology tour. Politifact awarded Romney a “Pants on Fire” rating for his absurd claim that President Obama went on an apology tour. Here is what Politifact concluded:

Once again, Romney has accused Obama of beginning his presidency “with an apology tour.”

Our reviews of Obama’s 2009 foreign travels and speeches showed no such thing. While he criticized past U.S. actions, such as torture practices at Guantanamo, he did not offer one apology.

It’s ridiculous to call Obama’s foreign visits and remarks “an apology tour.” We rate this statement Pants on Fire!

The Washington Post awarded Romney four Pinocchios (the maximum) for the same claim.

Romney and Ryan’s claim that President Obama resisted the sanctions imposed by Congress is wrong.  Politifact rated the claim “mostly false” instead of “false” because, in its words, Ryan employed a “sliver of truth in service of a misleading impression.” Here is the reality:

Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan think-tank,  told PolitiFact earlier this year that[Obama’s pushback against Congress was] not evidence the Obama administration had a weak stance on Iran, it’s just that Obama resisted letting Congress dictate the terms.

“Flexibility is the watchword,” he said. “It’s really hard to argue that this administration hasn’t brought strong pressure to bear on Iran.”…

James Jeffrey, a deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration and ambassador to Iraq and Turkey under Obama, said this kind of back-and-forth between Congress and the executive branch happens all the time. Congress wants to exert unilateral pressure, and the executive needs room for diplomacy with its allies.

You could just as easily characterize what Ryan calls watering down as the Obama team “strengthening the ability to enforce” sanctions against Iran, he said.

In fact, the United States and European Union, among others, are now putting so much economic pressure on the country that “many judge that Iran might soon decide it needs a nuclear compromise to produce an easing of sanctions,” according to the Congressional Research Service’s September report.

In other words, it was never about President Obama’s commitment to Iran
sanctions. As Ron Kampeas wrote, it was about the executive prerogative, stupid.

President Obama never spoke of the need to create daylight between the US and Israel. You can search all you want, but you’ll never find President Obama saying that. What you will find are people who claim they heard from anonymous sources that the President said that in a closed-door meeting with American Jewish leaders. But read this from Nancy Ratzan, the immediate past-president of the National Council of Jewish Women, who was there:

For many elections we have seen various attempts to peel off the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote. The recently released video “Perilous Times” is perhaps the most insidious and misleading effort to date to use propaganda to divide the Jewish community. The video is designed to make Jewish voters feel insecure about President Obama’s commitment to Israel by distorting and misappropriating the truth about the president’s and, indeed, America’s, unwavering alliance with Israel.

Early in the video the narrator alleges that when President Obama met in a private meeting with Jewish leaders in June of 2009, there was “stunned silence” as the president spoke about his administration’s vision regarding the Middle East.

I was one of the Jewish leaders in that meeting. I remember precisely what happened; it was not as represented in this video.

The truth is that President Obama spent an hour with 16 Jewish leaders from a wide spectrum of the American Jewish community. We dialogued with the president about ensuring the security of Israel, plans for advancing peace in the Middle East and strategies for ending Iran’s growing nuclear capacity.

The president was clear, unequivocal and passionate. The president articulated that he and his administration are resolutely committed to the security and safety of Israel, to the survival of Israel as the Jewish homeland, and to the pursuit of sustainable peace in the Middle East, a peace that secures Israel.

I, along with many other Jewish leaders, left that meeting confident about President Obama’s commitment to Israel and promising vision for moving towards peace in the region. I left a proud American and a secure Jew.

President Obama has called Israel America’s “closest ally in the region.” It’s amazing that this was even questioned in the first place.  Click here for just a few examples.

Romney’s politicizing of the Libya attacks are factually wrong and hypocritical. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that “the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last month appears to have been an opportunistic attack rather than a long-planned operation, and intelligence agencies have found no evidence that it was ordered by Al Qaeda.”

Also yesterday, the Washington Post reported that CIA documents supported Susan Rice’s description of the Benghazi attacks.

In other words, Romney’s opportunistic attempts to exploit the tragedy for political gain were, surprise, surprise, not based on facts. As John Marshall concludes after reviewing the facts, “only in the final weeks of a presidential campaign, with one candidate desperate for an America under siege Carteresque tableau to play against, would this ever remotely have been treated like a scandal or cover up. A bunch of reporters basically got played and punk’d.” Read Marshall’s article here.

Romney’s attacks are also hypocritical. There were 12 embassy attacks during the Bush administration, but Romney never said a word. One of the worst attacks on Americans on foreign soil, the Beirut bombing, occurred on Reagan’s watch.

And in 2004,”Romney was asked to address the 9/11 Commission’s finding of serious intelligence failures on the part of the US government in the run-up to the attacks. He responded that it is easy, but ultimately not particularly helpful, to blame different parts of the government for the attack.” Read the details here.

It’s ironic, if not hypocritical, that many of the Republicans now complaining the loudest voted to cut funds for diplomatic security.

Another tangible sign of the unprecedented level of military and intelligence cooperation between the US and Israel: This week, Israeli and US military forces will participate in the largest ever joint missile defense exercise of its kind.

Another example of the double-standard applied to President Obama. I’ve written previously about the double-standard some of our Republican friends apply to President Obama when it comes to Israel.  And as Meir Shalev wrote, if President Obama treated Israel the way Reagan did, Obama would be impeached.

Now we’ve found out that the Romney campaign’s recently-formed “Arab-Americans for Romney” committee includes several staunch critics of Israel and opponents of Iran sanctions:

“The fact that the Romney folks have an anti-Israel activist like George Salem and a guy like Grover Norquist, who has been widely criticized, including by Republican members of congress, for long standing ties to terrorists and supporters of terrorists groups, affiliated with their campaign is pretty troubling,” said one official with a Jewish organization. “If this were the Obama campaign, you can only imagine the howls of outrage that we would be hearing from Conservatives – and rightly so.”

Read the article here.

If this is “throwing Israel under the bus,” then we need a lot more buses like this:  President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program, restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration, secretly sold Israel the bunker-busting bombs it requested but did not receive during the Bush administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, took US-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against a one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

Want more facts? The Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs is the most-respected bipartisan pro-Israel PAC in the Chicago area, and is one of the best sources of good information in the country. Read its fact sheet here.

Want to get in the mood for Monday night’s foreign policy debate? Click here for Mitt Romney’s easy five-step approach to foreign policy.

Reprinted courtesy of the Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update. Subscribe here

What Really Happened at the Democratic Convention

— by Steve Sheffey

Last week Republicans accused Democrats of doing what they did just the week before regarding Jerusalem. Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats clarified their position by amending the platform, resulting in a statement on Israel that is stronger in several respects than the Republican platform.

The voice vote was messy, but far more problematic was the Republican tribute to Ron Paul, the most anti-Israel candidate to run for president in decades, and the GOP decision to let Rand Paul, who supports cutting foreign aid to Israel, address their convention in person.

Rational pro-Israel voters should not base their 2012 votes on Jerusalem because both parties have the same position.

More after the jump.
 
As many of you know, I was a delegate from Illinois at the Democratic National Convention last week. After Shabbat services yesterday, many people approached me during kiddush lunch with questions.  This article will be longer than usual.  If these issues are important to you, I hope you’ll take the time to read to the end.

Ron Kampeas accurately summarizes what happened. Republicans attacked Democrats for not including certain language on Jerusalem and when Democrats added the language back, the voice vote did not go smoothly.

We first need to separate politics from policy. The Democrats kicked the ball into their own goal. This entire firestorm could have been avoided if someone had done what the Republicans did the minute they had a chance: compare the 2008 platform to the 2012 platform for emotional issues. We’ll talk below about the policy rationale for not including the Jerusalem language, but not initially including it created an unnecessary distraction.

The Democrats then scored another goal against themselves with the voice vote. We’ll talk below about why it went down the way it did,  but the optics were terrible. Should any of this matter to pro-Israel voters? That’s where policy comes in.

To understand the Democratic platform on Israel, one first has to understand the Republican platform on Israel. This election is a choice, not a referendum. I was not able to find a link to only the Israel part of the Republican platform, but here is a link to the entire Republican platform.

Scroll down past the part about how taxes reduce freedom, past the part about repealing the estate tax, past the part supporting a Constitutional amendment requiring a super-majority for any tax increase, past the part supporting a Constitutional amendment restricting marriage to unions of one man and one woman, past the part supporting prayer in public schools, past the part supporting a human life amendment to the Constitution and legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children, past the part opposing federal funding for embryonic  stem cell research, past the part about reining in the EPA, past the part about saving Medicare by “modernizing” it (I’m not making this up),  past the part about repealing Obamacare, and you’ll eventually get to a section titled “American Exceptionalism.”  The last two parts of that section talk about Israel.

Most Democrats would probably agree with the 2012 Republican platform on Israel. I certainly do. Everything in the Republican platform on Israel is fine, but in 2008, the Republicans also said this: “We support Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and moving the American embassy to that undivided capital of Israel.” Now that language is gone.

Does that mean that Republicans now think Jerusalem should be divided? Does that mean that Republicans now oppose moving the embassy to Jerusalem? It does by the logic of those who are attacking the Democrats, but as Buzzfeed correctly observed, “In both parties’ cases, the revisions don’t seem to reflect a dramatic policy shift, but rather attempts by party leadership to avoid foreign policy commitments in the non-binding political document.”

Only a week before the Democratic Convention, the Republicans omitted key language on Jerusalem. As Bill Clinton said, “it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”

Now let’s look at the pre-amended Democratic platform. Once again, you’ll have to scroll down to get the Middle East section. The Democratic platform is very strong on Israel; in many ways, it describes how President Obama has already done what the Republicans say they want to do.  But it too is not the same as the 2008 platform.

The Democratic platform is stronger on Israel. For example, as JTA reports, the Democrats say this about Iran:

“At the same time, [Obama] has also made clear that the window for diplomacy will not remain open indefinitely and that all options – including military force – remain on the table.”

Specifying military force explicitly is new — the Republicans fall back on the coy “all options” language, which is interesting because that elision has frustrated pro-Israel groups and Republicans and Democrats in Congress no end in the last year, and helped bring about more explicit warnings from the White House, culminating in the explicit mention of “military force” in the DNC platform.

Here’s the GOP 2012 language:

“We must retain all options in dealing with a situation that gravely threatens our security, our interests, and the safety of our friends.”

But what about Jerusalem? As Josh Rogin reported, “the drafters [of the platform] made a deliberate and conscious decision to reframe the Israel section of the platform around Obama’s record, to limit the section to cover his existing policies, and to intentionally avoid any and all final-status issues.”  That might not be how to win US elections, but it does make sense.

Then why did the Democrats add the Jerusalem language to the platform on Wednesday? Politics. The only chance to amend the platform was during the convention. The language was irrelevant from a policy standpoint. The platform is not meant to be a checklist of every issue. But given that no policy change was intended, and given that Republicans had the brass to allege a policy change, the Democrats decided it would be easier just to add the language and remove all doubt. So, with President Obama’s approval, they added this: “Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.”

Note that this language too is stronger than the 2012 Republican platform, which omits the word “undivided.”

But what about other language that was not added? Republicans also complained that language about Hamas in the 2008 platform is not in the 2012 platform. Robert Wexler responded that the 2012 platform is stronger because it covers all Palestinian terror groups:  “The platform doesn’t say ‘Hamas,’ but it says that any potential Palestinian partner has to meet the conditions necessary for peace. That’s even stronger and of course it applies to Hamas.”  President Obama’s position is clear on the refugee issue and the armistice lines issue, both of which are final status issues that are not necessary to include in the platform.

The voice vote was blown out of proportion. I knew in advance that the platform would be amended at 5:00. Do you know where I was at 5:00? I was having dinner at Bentley’s with most of the Illinois delegation. It was a done deal. Many of the people there at 5:00 weren’t even delegates and had to get there early because they didn’t have reserved seats. When C-SPAN wasn’t zooming in on those two Arab-Americans, they showed the main floor, plainly revealing how few people were there. The Illinois section was virtually deserted.

Why the booing? Some delegates were upset because they had no notice of the amendments (they didn’t). Some delegates were upset because the “under God” language was also being added (it was). And yes, there probably were some people upset about the Jerusalem language, but it’s impossible to know how many of the nays and boos were actually from delegates. What we do know for certain is that Democratic leadership strongly backs the Jerusalem language. I was at an AIPAC lunch earlier in the day, and Senator after Senator, Congressperson after Congressperson, re-affirmed their support for Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. And this being the Democratic Convention, all of them were Democrats.

Republican delegates exhibited anti-Israel sentiment only a week earlier. The voice vote at the Democratic convention was ambiguous, but you don’t have to guess what Republican delegates supported. Rep. Ron Paul is the most anti-Israel candidate to run for president in either party for decades, maybe ever. Yet Ron Paul was honored at the Republican convention, no doubt to appease the Ron Paul delegates who were elected during the Republican primary. And Sen. Rand Paul, who is not quite as extreme as his father but who does favor cutting foreign aid to Israel, spoke at the Republican convention. Can you imagine the outcry if a Democrat who supported cutting foreign aid to Israel spoke in person at the Democratic convention?

Pro-Israel voters shouldn’t vote based on Jerusalem anyway. I was tempted to lead with this, but so many people want their questions answered first that I defied what might be good PR strategy and decided to actually answer the questions people are asking. But Aaron David Miller is 100% correct on this:

The Jerusalem issue defies logic and rationality when it comes to our presidential elections. Presidential candidates say all kinds of things in order to win elections, including repeated commitments to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. And then, once in office, they turn around and seek ways to avoid doing it.

Despite all of the campaign rhetoric, no administration has changed the bottom line U.S. position on the embassy, or for that matter the status of Jerusalem, since 1967. Its fate is to be determined in negotiations.

And here’s a news flash for you. Should Mitt Romney become president and serious negotiations start between the Israelis and Palestinians, his position would conform to that of his predecessors, and might even go further to allow for Palestinian sovereignty in east Jerusalem.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz spoke accurately about Michael Oren. I was in the room when the DNC Chair said “We know, and I’ve heard no less than Ambassador Michael Oren say this, that what the Republicans are doing is dangerous for Israel.” I don’t know if the “reporter” stayed for all of what she said, but it was obvious to me, as it should have been obvious to anyone familiar with Oren’s warnings about using Israel for partisan gain, that she was right.

The confusing part is that following the reporting of Wasserman Schultz’s comments, Oren issued a statement stating that “I categorically deny that I ever characterized Republican policies as harmful to Israel. Bipartisan support is a paramount national interest for Israel, and we have great friends on both sides of the aisle.”

Oren is right. But that’s not the point. In 2010, Oren “expressed deep concern over the increasing use of support for Israel as a partisan issue in American domestic politics. The Ambassador stressed that bipartisan support for Israel is a strategic national interest for the State of Israel.”

Republicans have repeatedly attempted to use Israel as a partisan issue. Whatever Romney meant when he said he’d “do the opposite” of President Obama on Israel, there is no way to interpret his statement as anything but the opposite of bipartisanship. And if accusing President Obama of “throwing Israel under the bus” even as Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak called US military and intelligence support for Israel under President Obama unprecedented isn’t playing politics with Israel, I don’t know what is.

So while it’s true that Oren did not specifically call out Republicans, it’s also true that Republicans are engaging in exactly the behavior that Oren so rightly condemned. I was in the room. It was obvious that’s what Wasserman Schultz meant. And good for her for speaking up.

But what about the troop exercises? Someone asked me about this in shul too. Some have suggested that the US is sending Israel a signal because the number of US troops participating in an upcoming major joint military exercise with Israel is smaller than originally planned.  The reality is that the exercises were moved at the request of Israel from the spring to the fall. At that time the administration told Israel that if the date was changed, then due to troop rotations the number participating would be a bit smaller.  Time reported that only 1500 US troops would participate, but the actual number is about 3,000.

Crossposted courtesy of Steve Sheffey’s Chicagoland Pro-Israel Political Update.

Sheffey: “But Does He Feel it in His Kishkes?”

— by David Streeter

In his new op-ed for The Times of Israel, veteran pro-Israel activist Steve Sheffey asks the question posed by so many — “does he feel Israel in his kishkes?” Sheffey wrote:    

He sometimes says the right things about Israel, but does he feel it in his kishkes? I’m beginning to wonder. Let’s start by looking at his advisors and associates:

  • Walid Phares, the co-chair of his Middle East advisory group, was a high-ranking official in a religious militia responsible for massacres during Lebanon’s civil war….
  • Spokesman John Sununu was “the only one of the 50 governors who refused to sign a 1987 proclamation saluting the 90th anniversary of Zionism and calling on the United Nations to rescind its Zionism-racism resolution.”

Foreign aid is a cornerstone of the pro-Israel agenda, yet when asked about foreign aid in a debate, and then when asked again a week later by the Republican Jewish Coalition, he either chose not to mention, or was unaware of, the Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel.

Instead of explaining to the American people why foreign aid in general, and foreign aid to Israel in particular, is so important and yet such a small portion of the federal budget, he simply agreed with Rick Perry that foreign aid should reexamined from zero.

And experience? He never served a day in Congress. He has less experience in public service than any modern presidential candidate. If elected he would be the third least-experienced president ever, trailing only Woodrow Wilson and Grover Cleveland.

Of course, I’m talking about Mitt Romney. Our hypocritical friends on the right who told us in 2008 to be wary of Barack Obama don’t seem too concerned about Romney’s advisors and inexperience….

President Obama is running for re-election with a strong record of support for Israel against an inexperienced candidate with virtually no record on Israel, plenty of questionable statements and associates, and a belief that “doing the opposite” is a policy statement.

Based on the criteria our Republican friends provided in 2008, 2012 should be an easy choice for pro-Israel voters.

Barry Rubin’s Fuzzy Thinking

Barry Rubin— by Steve Sheffey

A recent article by Barry Rubin provides a preview of the misleading arguments and half-truths we can expect from now until November. Rubin compresses so much nonsense into so little space that I’ll only cover some of his article today, and the rest later.

Rubin begins his article with a strawman argument, that we claim President Obama is good simply because he speaks warmly about Israel. It is true that President Obama speaks warmly about Israel, but his record is the basis for the claim that he is strong on Israel.

President Obama’s record on Israel is outstanding.

President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program, restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, taken US-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

Not all presidents say “nice” things about Israel.

Rubin gets it wrong even on his own terms. Words do matter, and not all presidents say nice things about Israel. Gerald Ford threatened to reassess America’s strategic relations with Israel, Ronald Reagan condemned Israel’s attack on Iraq’s nuclear reactor, Bush I decried lobbyists for Israel (he actually attacked citizen lobbyists like you and me), and in 2003 Bush II rebuked then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by rescinding $289.5 million in loan guarantees for Israel as punishment for what Bush considered illegal settlement activity. In 2004, the Bush administration abstained rather than veto a UN resolution condemning Israel for its actions in Gaza during a military operation aimed at stopping terrorism and weapons smuggling. If President Obama had done anything like what Ford, Reagan, Bush I or Bush II had done to Israel, then maybe Rubin would have something to write about.

It is true that President Obama speaks warmly of Israel, but Rubin leaves out to whom President Obama speaks warmly about Israel.

It’s easy to tell AIPAC how important the US-Israel relationship is. AIPAC already knows. The difference between President Obama and previous presidents is that President Obama eloquently delivers the case for Israel and a strong US-Israel relationship to those who need to hear it most.

During the 2008 campaign, I participated in a conference call with Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ), one of Israel’s best friends in Congress in either party. Rothman asked us to imagine the impact of a president named Barack Hussein Obama telling the entire world, including the Arab world, that America stands with Israel.

That’s exactly what President Obama did when he went to Cairo in 2009 and told the Arab and Muslim world that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable.”

He told the Arab and Muslim world, a world rife with Holocaust denial, that to deny the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”  He told them that threatening Israel with destruction is “deeply wrong.” He said that “Palestinians must abandon violence” and that “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” And he said that “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Who knows where we’d be today if previous Presidents had had the courage to personally deliver this message on Arab soil.

In 2011, President Obama went to the UN, another forum not known for its love for Israel, and told the world that

America’s commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable, and our friendship with Israel is deep and enduring. And so we believe that any lasting peace must acknowledge the very real security concerns that Israel faces every single day. Let’s be honest: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel’s citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel’s children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, looks out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile, persecution, and the fresh memory of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they were.

These facts cannot be denied. The Jewish people have forged a successful state in their historic homeland. Israel deserves recognition. It deserves normal relations with its neighbors. And friends of the Palestinians do them no favors by ignoring this truth, just as friends of Israel must recognize the need to pursue a two state solution with a secure Israel next to an independent Palestine.

The Israeli newspaper Yehidot Aharonot said that “An American President has never given such a pro-Israel speech at the UN.”

Isn’t that what we want from our President?

Under President Obama, the US-Israel relationship is warmer than ever.

Yet Rubin says that President Obama is “cold” toward Israel. Former Congressman Robert Wexler explained just last month that this “coldness” argument is

the argument Republican surrogates make. They say he’s cold. I hear that he doesn’t feel Israel in his kishkes. I think that’s something you say when you don’t have any factual arguments to make. What does it mean that he’s cold? Does being cold mean articulating the strongest pro-Israel argument ever at the UN – a forum not warm to Israel? Is it cold that America has engaged in the largest joint military operation between the US and Israel in Israel’s history during the Obama administration? Is it cold that more than 200 high-level Pentagon officials visited Israel during the last calendar year? Is it cold that America and Israel will likely engage in an even larger joint military exercise this year? And I’ll tell you one group who doesn’t believe the relationship is cold – that’s the current leadership in Tehran.

No wonder the vast majority of Jews vote Democratic and will continue to vote Democratic.

Aside from exceptions like Congressmen Joe Walsh and Ron Paul, the overwhelming majority of Democrats and Republicans support pro-Israel positions. But only the Democratic party is good on Israel and the other values we cherish.

The New Republican Hagaddah

Satire originally posted in the Huffington Post

— Steve Sheffey

Jewish history is littered with sects, groups of people kind of like Jews who celebrate the same holidays and have many of the same customs, yet are somehow different.

Today’s sect is known as “Jewish Republicans,” few in number but very loud. Like most Jews, they celebrate Pesach, but they’ve got their own Haggadah. The differences between their Haggadah and ours are instructive.

Kadeish קדש
Urchatz ורחץ
After drinking the first cup of wine, most Jews wash their hands, but the Republicans stay seated and wait for the water to trickle down.

Karpas כרפס
Most Jews then eat a green vegetable, but the Republican Haggadah follows the ruling of Rabbi Reagan that ketchup qualifies as a vegetable. Ketchup is not green, but green is the last thing any Republican would want to be. (Reagan does have this in common with Moses: Neither ever set foot in the land of Israel.)

Yachatz יחץ
Next, we break the middle of the three matzot. Most Jews break the middle matzah into two roughly equal pieces, replacing the smaller piece on the Seder plate and hiding the larger piece as the afikoman. The Republican Haggadah asks the leader (or in Republican parlance, the Seder CEO) to keep 99 percent of the matzah for himself and let the other participants share the remaining 1 percent.

Maggid מגיד
The Torah speaks of four sons, but the Republican Haggadah speaks of four candidates:

  • The simple candidate (Santorum),
  • the wicked candidate (Paul),
  • the candidate who does not know how to answer (Romney), and
  • the simple candidate who thinks he’s the wise candidate (Gingrich).

They have no wise candidates.

The highlight of the Republican Haggadah is its version of “Dayenu” — “it would have been enough.” The Republican motto when it comes to President Obama is “nothing is enough” — no matter how much President Obama does for Israel, it’s never enough for some of our Republican friends:

President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin Laden.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama has done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama increased security assistance to Israel to record levels.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama boycotted Durban II and Durban III.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama has taken U.S.-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama cast his only veto in the U.N. against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama opposed the Goldstone Report.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama immediately intervened to rescue Israelis trapped in the Egyptian embassy.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama gave orders to give Israel “whatever it needs” to put out the Carmel fire.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama maintained the U.S. policy of ambiguity on Israel’s nuclear weapons.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama has repeatedly condemned Palestinian incitement against Israel and attempts to delegitimize Israel.

But that’s not enough.

President Obama pulled out of joint exercises with Turkey after Turkey excluded Israel.

But that’s not enough.

There’s probably nothing President Obama can do to convince some Republicans that he’s pro-Israel. If President Obama split the Sea of Reeds and walked through it dry-shod, they’d accuse him of not being able to swim. They made their mind up before he was elected that he could not be trusted and they ignore everything that contradicts their biases.

The ultimate message of the real Haggadah is hope (sound familiar?). Let’s hope that just as the vast majority of American Jews voted for Barack Obama in 2008, the vast majority of us will remember who we are and what we value and vote to re-elect President Obama in 2012.

Separate Fact from Fiction of Obama’s Israel Record


— by Jason Attermann

Pro-Israel activist Steve Sheffey wrote an opinion piece for The Jerusalem Post warning about the false smears likely to be spread by right-wingers against President Barack Obama’s strong pro-Israel record as the presidential campaign heats up.

The campaign to delegitimize President Obama in the eyes of pro-Israel voters will only intensify between now and November 6….

Opponents of territorial compromise and Americans who use concern for Israel to mask concern about paying their fair share of taxes compose most of the 20-25 percent of Jews who vote Republican. But that’s not enough to win an election; hence their efforts to distort President Obama’s record on Israel. Most Jews support the Democratic domestic agenda, so if there is no reason to oppose the president based on Israel, there is no reason to oppose him at all.

Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program, restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the previous administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, taken US Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against the one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and is mounting a diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

More after the jump.
According to Sheffey, Obama’s detractors will attempt to delegitimize his extensive commitment to Israel’s security through the techniques of “repetition of falsehoods,” “baseless speculation,” and “guilt by association”-all of which have been engaged in before. Sheffey simplifies the situation as merely one of separating the facts of Obama’s actions from the fiction perpetuated by his opponents:

President Obama has surrounded himself with pro-Israel advisers, from Hillary Clinton to Dan Shapiro to Joe Biden to Rahm Emanuel. Yet we still hear about alleged influences from Obama’s past. Obama has been president for nearly three years. Evaluate President Obama the way the pro- Israel community has always evaluated our leaders and representatives: by looking at what they’ve done, not by trying to read their minds or via conjectures about influences that are impossible to prove or disprove.

If unprecedented military cooperation between the US and Israel, unambiguous opposition to a unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state, and unrelenting defense of Israel in international forums is what happens when someone knows Jeremiah Wright, we ought to send all our candidates to his church. President Obama’s record proves that he is one of the best friends of Israel ever to occupy the White House. The only question is whether attempts to manipulate the emotions of pro-Israel voters by distorting the president’s record will succeed. The answer depends on our ability to separate fact from fiction.

President Obama: Pro-Israel at the Two-Year Mark

— Steve Sheffey

After two years, it is clear that none of the flights of fancy imagined by our Republican friends about President Barack Obama’s fitness for office have come to pass. Obama’s record after two years in office is outstanding from a pro-Israel perspective.

Obama has provided more security assistance to Israel than any president in history, he’s created an unprecedented level of military cooperation between the United States and Israel, and most important, he’s done more than any other president to thwart Iran’s illicit nuclear ambitions.  Thanks to Obama, Iran is now further away from acquiring nuclear weapons than it was when he took office.

We can disagree with Obama on specific polices or tactics, as we have with every president, but we don’t do the U.S.-Israel relationship any favors when we question Obama’s commitment to Israel for continuing American policies that have been in place for decades.

News reports from just the last week are enough to dispel any lingering doubts:

The New York Times reported on January 15 that a joint American and Israeli effort to undermine Iran’s efforts to make an atomic bomb through the Stuxnet computer worm has wiped out a fifth of Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and significantly delayed Iran’s nuclear efforts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on January 8 that Israel’s outgoing intelligence chief said that Iran won’t be able to build a nuclear weapon until 2015 and that many credit international sanctions that have restricted Iran’s ability to procure key raw materials.

Ha’aretz reported on January 13 that in a combative exchange with an Al-Jazeera reporter in Doha, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that “Israel is a sovereign country and it makes its own decisions…You often make decisions based on your own experiences and history. And when the Israelis pulled out of Lebanon they got Hezbollah and 40,000 rockets and when they pulled out of Gaza they got Hamas and 20,000 rockets.” That’s Clinton speaking to Al-Jazeera, not staunch supporters of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post reported on January 9 that the Palestinian Authority is complaining that the United States has threatened to veto a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement activity. The Obama administration has been very clear that the UN “is not the place to resolve the long-standing conflict and outstanding issues between the Israelis and the Palestinians. [The Obama Administration does] not think that that is a productive path for the Palestinians or anyone to pursue.”

The Washington Times reported on January 12 that the Obama administration is ramping up the war on terror, doubling special operations, doubling the use of unmanned drones, and expanding counter-terrorism operations.

And that was all in one week. Let’s look at the past two years: Obama fulfilled his campaign promise to boycott Durban II. Obama renewed sanctions against Syria several times. Obama fully funded the Arrow 3 ballistic missile system and the Iron Dome system. Obama provided more security assistance to Israel than any president in history. Obama maintained the U.S. policy of ambiguity on Israel’s nuclear weapons. Obama told the Arab world in Cairo that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable.” Obama re-approved loan guarantees to Israel.

Obama has repeatedly condemned Palestinian incitement against Israel and attempts to delegitimize Israel. In late November 2010, the State Department responded to the Palestinian Authority’s denial that the Western Wall was Jewish by saying that “We strongly condemn these comments and fully reject them as factually incorrect, insensitive and highly provocative. We have repeatedly raised with the Palestinian Authority leadership the need to consistently combat all forms of de-legitimization of Israel including denying historic Jewish connections to the land.”

Obama pulled out of joint exercises with Turkey after Turkey excluded Israel. Obama repealed import tariffs on Israeli dairy products. Obama restored Israel’s qualitative military edge and took U.S. military cooperation to unprecedented levels after erosion during the Bush administration.

As Daniel Shapiro, President Obama’s Senior Director for the Middle East and North Africa National Security Council, explained on May 3, 2010:

This commitment to Israel’s security is not a slogan for us.  We live it every day in the policies we carry out.  Since taking office, President Obama has taken what was already a strong U.S.-Israel defense relationship, and broadened and deepened it across the board.  Our annual military assistance to Israel has increased to nearly $3 billion.  We have reinvigorated defense cooperation, including on missile defense, highlighted by the 1,000 U.S. service members who traveled to Israel to participate in the Juniper Cobra military exercises last fall.  We have intensive dialogues and exchanges with Israel – in political, military, and intelligence channels – on regional security issues and counter-terrorism, from which we both benefit, and which enable us to coordinate our strategies whenever possible.  We have redoubled our efforts to ensure Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge in the region, which has been publicly recognized and appreciated by numerous senior Israeli security officials.  And we continue to support the development of Israeli missile defense systems, such as Arrow and David’s Sling, to upgrade Patriot missile defense systems first deployed during the Gulf War, and to work cooperatively with Israel on an advanced radar system to provide early warning of incoming missiles.

The ties between our defense establishments are extraordinary.  Throughout the U.S. military and the IDF, from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, down to generals, colonels, and majors in every branch, personal relationships have been forged, joint work is being done, and a sense of common purpose and shared mission animates the partnership.

We take these steps because the threats Israel faces are real, and because many of the same forces threaten us and our interests.  Whether it is an Iran bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, Hezbollah acquiring increasingly sophisticated weaponry from Syria, or Hamas smuggling weapons through the tunnels into Gaza, Israelis stand on the front lines, often at great cost, against forces that seek to take the Middle East in a lawless, dangerous, and unstable direction, putting our interests at risk.  When President Obama wrote recently that “our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests”, and that “no wedge will be driven between us”, this is what he was talking about.

President Obama has also steadfastly defended Israel against attempts to de-legitimize it, whether at the UN or other international bodies, while always standing up for Israel’s right to self-defense against terrorism and other threats.   These are commitments that will not change.  When it became clear that the Durban II Conference would unfairly and unreasonably single out Israel for criticism, we did not hesitate to pull out of the conference and lead many of our allies to do the same.  We have repeatedly and vigorously voted against and spoken out against the Goldstone Report.  When Turkey summarily cancelled Israel’s participation in a key military exercise last fall, we did not hesitate for one minute to pull out as well, and we have worked diligently to preserve a positive relationship between Israel and Turkey, which has been an important contributor to security in the region.

Dennis Ross provides additional detail here.

There’s one thing that Israel’s enemies and Obama’s critics have in common: an unrelenting, almost monomaniacal focus on Israel’s settlement policy. For better or worse, Obama has maintained the same policy on settlements that the United States has maintained since 1967. Unless we’re prepared to label every president since 1967 as unsympathetic to Israel, we should not single out President Obama.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted on November 9 that the “disagreements with the US over Jerusalem are well-known. They are not new and have continued for 40 years.” These differences are apparently not well-known to those who would use Israel for partisan purposes to advance the political fortunes of the Republican Party, but those of us who genuinely care about peace in the Middle East and a strong US-Israel relationship should stress that this is and has been American policy, and is not unique to any one president.

The Bush administration also publicly opposed settlements and building in Jerusalem. Not only that, but the Bush administration demanded that the ban on settlement growth include “natural growth” in its roadmap for peace. Every Democratic and Republican president since 1967 has failed to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 requires that the U.S. embassy be moved to Jerusalem unless the president signs a waiver every six months, which is just what Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama (thus far) have done.

Mark Twain said that “a lie can make it half way around the world before the truth puts its pants on.” One cannot help but wonder if some of Obama’s critics have taken it upon themselves to prove it. Space does not permit a refutation of all the falsehoods circulating about Obama, but two that will likely surface again and again are the mythical snub of Netanyahu by Obama at the White House and non-existent statements by Obama that Israel’s legitimacy rests on the Holocaust.

The myth of Obama’s snub of Netanyahu was manufactured by those seeking to create a rift between the two leaders. Read more here and here.

Obama never referred to 60 years of “occupation,” he never equated suffering during the Holocaust to Palestinian suffering, and he never said that Israel’s legitimacy is grounded in the Holocaust. Read the proof here.

Here’s what Obama did say: Obama went to Cairo and told the Arab and Muslim world that America’s bond with Israel is “unbreakable.” He told the Arab and Muslim world, a world rife with Holocaust denial, that to deny the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.” He told them that threatening Israel with destruction is “deeply wrong.” He said that “Palestinians must abandon violence” and that “it is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.” And he said that “Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Who knows where we’d be today if previous Presidents had had the courage to personally deliver this message on Arab soil.

History will deliver the final verdict on Obama once he’s completed his second term. But if the case went to the jury now, the verdict would be clear: Obama is a strong friend of Israel, and he’s proven it in word and deed.