Defining Pro-Israel

In an election season, every candidate needs to appear pro-Israel — especially the Democratic candidates most beholden to Jewish donors in order to get elected. Snide words from a politically conservative Jew? Not really. The Arab-American and global Arab press has made this point repeatedly, in order to explain the “transformation” of Barack Obama — who as recently as the 2000 election cycle (when he failed in his bid for a congressional seat) “was forthright in his criticism of US policy and his call for an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict,” and in 2004 called Israel’s security wall an “example of the neglect of this Administration in brokering peace” [demonstrating a lack of both global and domestic political knowledge in a single sentence]. Hamas “unendorsed” Obama after his AIPAC speech, although Obama backtracked on his commitment to an undivided Jerusalem a day later.

But there is a big difference between platitudes and positions, and the Jewish community cannot afford to be deceived. Obama offers up the glib generalities we want to hear while simultaneously raking in Arab cash as well (including tens of thousands of dollars illegally sent in from Gaza). McCain makes it very clear why Arab donors are notably absent from his FEC filings.

Case in point: Sderot. No cheating now — which candidate said which remark? Candidate A said: “I will work from the moment that I return to America, to tell the story of Sderot and to make sure that the good people who live here are enjoying a future of peace and security and hope.” Candidate B remarked: “Someone is going to have to answer me the question of how you are going to negotiate with an organization that is dedicated to your extinction… I can tell you that I believe that if rocket attacks came across the border of the United States of America, that the American people would probably demand pretty vigorous actions in response.”

I submit to you that the substantive difference between the two comments is no less obvious than the respective identities of the candidates who made them.

Against the obvious, the best arguments from Obama’s Jewish allies run no better than a telling letter from Maryland State Delegate Dr. Dan Morheim, arguing that we should vote for Obama because he’s got a better web site. “Obama’s web site… has an entire section devoted to Israel… McCain doesn’t feel it worthy of mention.”

Not only is this argument stunningly juvenile, it is also wrong. The link to McCain’s “Jewish Advisory Coalition” is available from his campaign home page, and Israel is the topic of the page. It is true that Obama has not only a “Jewish Americans for Obama” page (celebrating a host of similarities between his positions and those of the Tikkun Olam crowd), but an Israel section on his foreign policy page as well as an Israel Fact Sheet. It is therefore all the more notable that McCain in his brief statement manages something which Obama cannot bring himself to do in his sheaf of verbiage: label Hamas a terrorist organization on a par with Hizbollah, and commit himself to holding it equally accountable.

In this area as well as so many others, McCain clearly found a running mate of the same mind. In the face of an incredibly hostile set of questions from ABC’s Charlie Gibson, Sarah Palin more than held her own — and clearly and repeatedly endorsed Israeli military action to make the world a safer place. Gibson asked Palin three times over how McCain would react to Israeli action against Iran, and three times over Palin gave Israel a green light to do whatever it deems necessary.

GIBSON: What if Israel decided it felt threatened and needed to take out the Iranian nuclear facilities?

PALIN: Well, first, we are friends with Israel and I don’t think that we should second guess the measures that Israel has to take to defend themselves and for their security.

GIBSON: So if we wouldn’t second guess it and they decided they needed to do it because Iran was an existential threat, we would cooperative or agree with that.

PALIN: I don’t think we can second guess what Israel has to do to secure its nation.

GIBSON: So if it felt necessary, if it felt the need to defend itself by taking out Iranian nuclear facilities, that would be all right.

PALIN: We cannot second guess the steps that Israel has to take to defend itself.

Forget Israel — can anyone imagine Obama giving the United States a green light to defend itself, without the approval of the United Democracies, Dictatorships and Sheikdoms?

Obama not only makes broad generalizations while failing to deliver clear positions. His vague reassurances themselves are a facade, not nearly so reassuring upon closer examination. He offers us a metaphor on the aforementioned “Jewish Americans for Obama” page, which takes pains to point out the completely relevant qualification for high office to be found in the fact that his “name comes from the same root as the Hebrew word Baruch, or ‘blessed’.” Absent is any mention of the language in which Barack actually means “blessed,” namely Arabic. For obvious reasons.

Obama has stopped calling for “an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict” — at least for the time being. But let’s not lose sight of what those words actually mean: an inability to discern between good and evil, as if humanity could regurgitate the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge and return to that brief time when evil was as foreign to humanity as extra-terrestrial life. We are no longer in that era, and urgently need world leaders who know that there is nothing to be gained by an “even-handed approach” between those who seek to live in peace and those who celebrate the murder of small children.

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7 comments to Defining Pro-Israel

  • LOberstein

    There is a falacy out there. It is that the Agudah is not pro Israel because they don’t sing Hallel on Yom HaAtzmaut. The reality in 2008 is that the Agudists like Rabbi Shafran are the most pro Israel people in our community. They really care about Israel’s security and it is vital to their decision on whom to vote for. On the other hand, I attended a conference of the NJDC (Jewish Democrats) a year ago and everyone seeking the nomination told us that he or she loved Israel. The complaint that I heard was that Jewish Democrats are not one issue people, that we should care mainly about a woman’s right to choose and gay rights, and other important topics and not make support for Israel the main or only issue.
    This year, I am not attending the NJDC convention because I have lost interest in their agenda.Many liberal Jews are more liberal than Jews. That is a result of assimilation. These people are pro Israel but it is only one of a range of issues.
    I am a Lieberman Democrat and my breed is on the outs with the gay marriage crowd. Obama is underwhelming, of course, he says the right words, he has the best advisors money can buy. But, Sarah Palin, who knows very little about Israel, is a truer friend because her religion is pro Israel.I trust Lieberman to keep McCain on course with Israel.
    This does not mean blind obedience to every Israeli position. The US President has to do what is in America’s best interests.

  • soccer dad

    FWIW, I e-mailed Morhaim’s office that his assertion was inaccurate and suggested that he write a correction. I have not received a response. I acknowledged that McCain’s Israel page 1 level deeper than Obama’s, but it is at the website.

  • Jacob Haller

    Perhaps the most pro-Israel position anyone could take (citizen or candidate) is to find a way for Israel to be more independent and less involved with the U.S. both financially and in other disciplines.

    McCain made a powerful remark regarding Sderot but let’s face reality, if he’s elected President (BTW,I’m looking for a 3rd party to vote for) it’s inevitable that he will persuade the Israelis to negotiate with all Arab parties and use Iran as a pretext for doing so. Not unlike Rabin’s selling point to the public at the time of Oslo I.

    Until I found out that he ran around with really wild characters, Ron Paul’s candidacy was intriguing. He went on record saying that his opposition to all foreign aid would benefit Israel as well. Why? For one thing, by stopping all foreign the U.S. Government would not be hypocritically hedging their bets by giving to Israel AND to Israel’s enemies (Saudi Arabia, Palestinian Authority, Pakistan). Furthermore, Israel could make strategic decisions without worrying about the U.S. Since Paul never counted on the support of AIPAC and other lobbyists, it would be a hard sell to convince that these remarks were in order to pander to some audience.

    The last point was stated powerfully in Michael Oren’s book about the 6 Day War. Once it was clear to the the Israelis that the U.S., the UK, France and every other “ally” was willing to give lip service but nothing more, it was actually a RELIEF to the Israelis that they were on their own and didn’t need to worry about some proverbial umbilical cord to dictate their decision making.

    Wasn’t that the premise of Zionism? Independence? Is the AIPAC-Israel relationship healthy for anyone, Israel or the U.S.?

    FYI, I generally keep these types of remarks mum since they could be cyncially exploited by any nemesis.

  • LOberstein

    jacob Haller, since you signed your name you deserve a response.Voting for a 3rd party makes you irrelevant.Gore would have been President if there were just a few more Democrats voting in Florida.This will be a close election. Ron Paul is our enemy, don’t be fooled. The US embargoed weapons to all sides in the 1948 War , so who lost out?Not the Arabs who got from other sources, only little Israel. Luckily Hashem put the idea in Stalin’s mind that Israel would be a Communist bulwark and he let Czechoslovakia sell arms to Israel.
    In this world, Israel is very small and survives due to a lot of help from the US. AIPAC convinces a lot of politicians that it is in America’s national interests to support Israel. I am glad they believe it.
    Zionism was a dream but we live in the real world and Israel’s long term viability is a matter of immense concern to all of us. Let’s be happy that the USA is our friend and let’s keep it that way.

  • dovid

    “AIPAC convinces a lot of politicians that it is in America‚Äôs national interests to support Israel. I am glad they believe it.”

    LOberstein, I am not sure you meant it but you sound as if you are skeptical that supporting little Israel is in America’s interest. The reality is that a strong Israel is in America’s best national interest, regardless of one’s political views. I suggest you take a look at the article by Martin Kramer in http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/middleeast/The_American_Interest.asp

  • Jacob Haller

    LOberstein,

    Do you have any comment regarding the forecast that if John McCain is elected he will encourage the Israelis to sit with Abbas (and probably Hamas), will send his Sec’y of State to tell the Israelis to dismantle road blocks and strongly “advise” a split of Jerusalem much like Bush has the past year?

  • Garnel Ironheart

    Haven’t McCain and Palin learned from Reagan and Schultz? Being unabashedly pro-Israel is the best way NOT to get the liberal Jewish vote!