A manufactured crisis obscures the real one

A manufactured crisis obscures the real one

I confess: I voted for Barack Obama and I’m glad I did. Like most of my fellow Jews, I think he’s doing a pretty good job as president of the United States. I also feel a special connection to the State of Israel and strongly support its right to exist as a democracy, defend itself, and not be held to a double standard by the UN or the rest of the world as it so often is today.

Those sentiments don’t sound or feel the least bit radical or incongruous to me. But that just shows how out of touch I must be with those who also say they care deeply about our country and the Jewish state. Many of them insist that Obama would like nothing better than to sell Israel down the river.

I would apologize for supporting this horrible man if I could just figure out what he is doing wrong.

Many American Jews who identify themselves as “pro-Israel” have never been comfortable with Obama. In recent weeks, several respected Jewish leaders seem so confused that they don’t know the difference between Haman and Mordecai.

Obama is no Haman. He has repeatedly stated his commitment to Israel’s security and safety and has made it clear that the Palestinians and Arab states need to renounce terrorism and violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.

But when March Madness began on the basketball court, March Mishegas took over the Jewish press and several pro-Israel organizations. And the insanity continues over an imaginary crisis that some say Obama provoked with his “over-the-top” response to Israel’s decision to add new housing units in a part of Jerusalem.

The housing announcement came in the midst of a visit to Israel by Vice President Biden. It’s no secret that the United States considers the final status of Jerusalem a key to the two-state solution and “an issue to be settled at the negotiating table,” as Secretary of State Clinton later put it. The White House has made it clear that this awkward incident was a spat among friends, not a crisis or a major game-changer in U.S.-Israel relations. But a number of Jewish “leaders” and journalists clearly saw it differently.

AIPAC immediately called on the Obama administration to “defuse the tensions” with Israel, branding statements by the White House “a matter of serious concern.”

The next day, Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick announced that the incident in Israel “drove Obama into a fit of uncontrolled rage from which he has yet to recover” which caused him to “foment a crisis (and) launch a political war on Israel.”

New York Post and Fox News military analyst Ralph Peters wrote a column featuring a very old photo of Obama standing next to Reverend Jeremiah Wright and stated that “regarding Israel, a lifetime of extremist associations has infected Obama with an emotional loathing for the Jewish state and a romantic vision of Palestinian terrorists as freedom fighters.”

Then former New York City mayor and Obama supporter Ed Koch went on Fox News to complain that Obama had “thrown Israel under the bus.” According to Koch, Obama insulted Bibi by avoiding taking any pictures with him when the two met in Washington.

The truth is, even after expressing their disappointment over the housing announcement, administration officials continued to emphasize their commitment to Israel. After an embarrassed Netanyahu apologized, Biden made a speech there in which he said, “I am here to remind you, though I hope you will never forget, that America stands with you shoulder-to-shoulder in facing” threats from its enemies. He quoted President Obama as saying, “I will never waver from ensuring Israel’s security and helping them secure themselves in what is a very hostile region.’”

And as Clinton told AIPAC, “We objected to this announcement because we are committed to Israel and its security, which we believe depends on a comprehensive peace, because we are determined to keep moving forward along a path that ensures Israel’s future as a secure and democratic Jewish state living in peace with its Palestinian and Arab neighbors, and because we do not want to see the progress that has been made in any way endangered.”

Doesn’t sound like a crisis to me.

There is a serious crisis in Israel but it has nothing to do with Obama or the U.S. It is the toxic impact of the Religious Right and the settler movement. The latter group is small in numbers but huge in influence due a form of government that requires a leader like Netanyahu to put together a majority coalition to remain in power.

Most American Jews don’t want to acknowledge (much less deal with) those complexities so they just bash Muslims and Obama and define being “pro-Israel, American style” to include support for positions that most Israelis would find frightening.

Bibi’s greatest challenge is not Obama. It’s deciding if and when he is going to spend more time and energy working on the inevitable two-state solution and less on sucking up to the fundamentalist fanatics who have consistently worked against the peace process.

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