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Obama: The right choice for Israel in a complex world
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Obama: The right choice for Israel in a complex world

Certain self-proclaimed “protectors of our faith” brand President Obama anti- Israel, assert he is not doing what is needed about Iran, claim he puts Israel’s survival at risk, and declare that those who care about the Jewish people must vote for Gov. Romney.

Whatever this Jewish coterie is after, it has little to do with facts. They do not address this administration’s voting record at the United Nations, which has held the line against the hostile voting bloc of Israel’s enemies. They do not consider the extent of the administration’s military/economic aid to Israel, which has been formidable. They do not recognize the president’s world-wide leadership against al Qaida, in eliminating Bin Laden and other leaders of this terrorist enterprise.

Perhaps they take issue with the president reaching out to Arab moderates, soon after taking office, so that mutual antipathy was not our only option. Perhaps it is because of how the president has navigated the difficulties posed by the “Arab Spring.” The hegemony of old dictators, who for decades oppressed their people with American support, is under siege throughout the Middle East, and has become entangled with the incipient forces of democracy, the repressive forces of Islamic radicalism, tribalism, and other local “isms.” Did we move too slowly/too quickly in Egypt? Should we be supplying more arms to Syrian rebels? Whatever your opinion, these issues do not lend themselves to sound-bite resolution.

Most Jews share a deep concern about Iran’s nuclear program. By what standard of rationality can we label the worldwide isolation of Iran — which has destabilized the Iranian economy — anti-Israel? The president had to fashion sanctions agreeable to other countries. He had to consider the impact of sanctions on America’s economy. Even so, China and Russia remain on the sidelines and undermine the efficacy of the sanctions. The challenge is not how to talk tougher, but how to bring these hold-outs into the fold and tighten sanctions.

Or should we rush to war against Iran, with all the lessons of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan still fresh? If our president believes that we should not, in what sense does it make him anti-Israel? Military force remains on the table, but does anyone doubt that there will be a huge price to pay in blood and treasure – for Americans and Israelis — if it comes to war?

The crisis we face is not a matter of berating our enemies with louder threats. Did President Bush’s labeling North Korea as part of the “axis of evil” retard its nuclear advance? As Sen. Moynihan observed, one of the greatest challenges for modern governments is to deal with complexity

Some are upset because of the resident’s reference to the pre-1967 border line as a starting point for peace negotiations. This statement, however, is no different in substance than America’s historic position, irrespective of the party in power.

Other critics are incensed that Obama does not march in lock-step with Prime Minister Netanyahu. However, many Israelis, as well as many American Jews with a lifetime of support for Israel, differ with the prime minister concerning the peace process and Iran. By what tortuous line of thought do we expect the president to be 100 percent aligned with the current prime minister of Israel, and make such alignment a litmus test for electability?

Many of us are frustrated and scared by what we see at home and abroad. Those who pretend that the United States can impose a new “Pax Americana” are enmeshed in a puerile dream.

Lest we forget, it was President Bush who embroiled us in the war against Iraq, based on bad intelligence, from which President Obama has had to extricate us. Bush failed to build an effective world coalition, offended our allies, undermined our leadership position in the world, and squandered our national wealth and international credibility. The combination of war without end, and a naive belief that the richest among us would take care of everything, created the great recession. The resultant weakening of America has also posed a grave security threat for Israel.

Viewing this election “Jewishly,” we should consider the contempt Governor Romney shows — when he speaks freely before his supporters — toward the poor, those who have benefitted from government programs, and those whose raison d’etre is not to be an entrepreneur.

According to our Torah, a society’s treatment of the less fortunate is the hallmark of its tsedek, or embrace of justice. We must never forget that we were slaves in Egypt and thus must understand in our hearts that this duty to care is our purpose in history.

Judaism means many different things to many people, but it is not a code word for capitalism — and certainly not for the elevation of capital over people. Free enterprise has a role, but it is not the central plank of our peoplehood.

Read the Republican platform and decide for yourselves which candidate and party is antithetical to the values of Israel. It exhibits contempt for science, the separation of church and state, and women’s rights. Consider who is better able to deal with a complex, multilateral and dangerous world, with multiple threats not only to Israel, but to America and to the quality and diversity of life on earth.

At the very least, do not substitute a label for thought. Be a Rav, not a raver.

 

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