President Obama's charm offensive to American Jews – and its corollary, the effort to alienate American Jewry from Israel's prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu -- is in full-throttle. And one must grant the president this much: he knows what American Jews like to hear about themselves – to wit, that Jews are the most moral and progressive people in the world. The President understands that the heterodox movements are -- to paraphrase Norman Podhoretz -- the progressive branch of the Democratic Party at prayer.
In a recent speech to Washington D.C.'s Adas Israel congregation, Obama told the congregants how as a young man he had thrilled to read of the kibbutzim, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, and Israel's "overcoming incredible odds in the '67 war."
Such passages are where young speechwriters really get to strut their stuff, Googling pertinent Talmudic quotes and the like. I will leave it to the reader to judge how likely it is that six-year-old Barack in Muslim Indonesia was thrilled by Israel's victory in the 1967 war against "incredible odds" or whether he and his fellow "Choom Gang" members in Hawaii spent much time speaking of their admiration of Meir and Dayan. Would that be the Golda Meir who famously denied that there is any such thing as a Palestinian people? (Speechwriters beware: There are limits to how far Google can take you.)
The values of those early Zionists, who came not just to make the desert bloom, but "to remake the world . . . [and] ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive," Obama told his eager listeners, became to a large extent his own values. His "Jewish values," the President continued, "compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity." The implicit, but clear, message, to the congregants was that his and their shared Zionist values compel him (with their support) to work against the evil Prime Minister Netanyahu and for a Palestinian state in real time.
That message becomes truly ominous as the administration repeatedly hints that it intends to shelve its traditional veto of anti-Israel resolutions in the Security Council and support a French Security Council Resolution calling for the creation of a Palestinian state, with its capital in Jerusalem, by U.N. fiat. The President has asked the French to postpone introduction of their resolution until he can secure passage of an Iranian deal through Congress. That effort to avoid arousing congressional wrath would be unnecessary if the United States intended to veto a resolution that would grant the Palestinians everything they want without negotiations and without ever having lifted a finger to show themselves capable of running a state.
THE PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE, then, was that Tikkun Olam requires courage and strength and the willingness to speak truth to power (i.e., Netanyahu) in order to provide the Palestinian child in Ramallah with hope for the future in the form of a Palestinian state. The elevated values of Judaism require that Israeli Jews take risks for that Palestinian child that no other country in the world would take with its own future.
Frankly, as an Israeli Jew, I find the President's pontificating about the need for me and my fellow citizens to worry about the Palestinian child in Ramallah (a familiar prop in his speeches on Palestinian-Israeli conflict) a trifle grating. On the evidence before us, Israel cares far more about Palestinian children than do their own leaders. Hamas deliberately places its military assets in densely populated areas thereby turning Gazan children into human shields. Each dead child, is in their eyes, a public relations bonanza.
By contrast, Colonel Richard Kemp, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has repeatedly stated that the Israeli army has taken greater steps to prevent civilian casualties than any nation in history. Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has similarly lauded Israel's avoidance of civilian casualties, even when the other side seeks them.
The Palestinian obsession with destroying Israel comes on the backs of their children. Rather than rebuild Gaza after last summer's fighting, Hamas is once again using whatever building material it can get its hands on for rebuilding its tunnels.
In 1948, the Jews accepted the smallest sliver of the original British Mandate, in order than they at least have a state. If the Palestinians cared one whit about a state for their young, they could have had one in 2000, 2001, and 2008. Instead they rejected Israeli offers without even making a counter-offer. Nothing in Palestinian governance since the outset of Oslo suggests that they could secure a better life for citizens of a Palestinian state so long as their focus is on the destruction of the state of the Jews not the building of their own.
Pace President Obama, nothing in Jewish values requires or even allows Jews to place a higher value on the life of the little boy in Ramallah than on the lives of their own children. Quite the contrary, it is forbidden to do so, though tragically many Jewish lives have been lost to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties.
A Palestinian state in the West Bank would inevitably be a failed state, torn by civil strife, and ultimately a haven for jihadist groups of all sorts. Only this time, they would be overlooking Israel's major population centers and industrial base, not to mention the principal airport connecting it to the outside world. That is why it is nearly universally acknowledged in Israel that opposition leader Isaac Herzog would be no more capable than PM Netanyahu of bringing about a Palestinian state with which Israel could reasonably expect to live in peace. It takes two to tango.
The torah instructs judges to favor neither the rich nor the poor, but rather to pursue justices. Similarly, there is no basis in Jewish values to disfavor the morally superior before the morally inferior. Yet that is precisely what President Obama did when he seized on Netanyahu's pre-election remark that there will be no Palestinian state during his current term as prime minister – which, as a factual matter, no one doubts – to blame Israel for having made it impossible to believe that negotiations are possible.
At the same time, Abbas is presented as a paragon of virtue, despite the fact that for the last six years it is Israel that has repeatedly met the Obama administration's parameters for negotiations and taken painful steps to encourage them – e.g., building freezes beyond the 1949 armistice lines, prisoner releases -- while the Palestinians repeatedly refused to come to the table. More than 20 years of non-stop incitement in the official Palestinian media against Israel and Jews, glorification of terrorists by the PA, and the complete failure to educate the Palestinians to the fact that peace will require compromises on their part as well are ignored by Obama.
IN HIS LONG INTERVIEW with Adas Israel member Jeffrey Goldberg of the The Atlantic prior to his synagogue visit, President Obama laid out some of his indicia of anti-Semitism, including denying the Jewish people's 3,000 year connection to the Land of Israel and the application of standards to Israel applied to no other nation.
Unfortunately, the President has too frequently failed to heed his own definitions. In his 2009 Cairo address to the Muslim world, he described Israel's claim to existence almost exclusively in the context of the Holocaust. And by placing the onus for the failed peace process on Netanyahu while granting the Palestinians a pass from any responsibility, he has subjected Israel to a double standard.
While he decried the "deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism where it would have seemed unthinkable just a few years or decades ago," the president seems to understand little of the nature of that anti-Semitism, particularly its obsessive nature and how lethal it can be. He told Goldberg, that the Iranians can be assumed to be rational actors, as understood by the president, despite their endemic anti-Semitism. Perhaps they may let their anti-Semitism guide them at the margins when the costs are low, but with regard to protecting their own power base or improving the Iranian economy, they will act rationally, he insisted. Apparently Obama has never studied how the Germans diverted vital war resources from the front in 1944 to speed the murder of Hungarian Jewry.
Among the rational factors that the president advised the Iranians to heed was the military option he told Goldberg had not been abandoned. Unfortunately, a week later he admitted that in his eyes at least such an option does not exist since it would only set back the Iranians a year or two.
Such reversals, like Obama's previously abandoned "red lines," do not inspire Israeli confidence no matter how many times the president insists that he had Israel's back. Nor has anyone quite figured out what having Israel's back would help after the Iranians fired a missile with a nuclear payload.
The president urges Israel to choose hope over cynicism and fear. But we have chosen neither. We have chosen realism – an honest evaluation of what we must do to ensure our survival. As David Horowitz wrote back to the president in The Times of Israel: Don't just blame us for our fears; do something to alleviate them.
Promises that you have our back or Security Council guarantees, like the one ending the Second Lebanon war and guaranteeing that southern Lebanon would not again become a launching pad for rocket attacks on Israel, do not cut it -- especially not after we have watched Hezbollah turn every home in southern Lebanon into a missile pad.