Sunday, March 04, 2012

Competing videos on Obama's Israel record

The Democratic National Committee released this commercial last week:

On Saturday, The Emergency Committee for Israel released an entire documentary about Obama's record on Israel:

While it is perhaps unfair to compare the two directly, they show what each side is emphasizing. The Obama team wants to highlight the amount of military cooperation that the US and Israel have shared, the anti-Obama team brings many examples of how this administration has seemed to have thrown Israel under the bus.

Both points of view are biased, of course.

The two major issues that Israel faces are the Iranian nuclear threat and the Palestinian Arab threat - both terrorist and diplomatic.

On the Iranian front, while some may argue that the US should have done more sooner, Obama's initial outreach to Iran has now been forgotten and his current sanctions are indeed far reaching. It is a shame that some time was lost while he seemed to need to convince himself of what the Bush administration already knew about Iran. On the one hand, the US has not done a bad job in corralling international support for sanctions considering the huge opposition from Russia and China; but on the other hand I don't think that Iran perceives a US military threat as credible, which would be the single most important deterrent possible. Meanwhile, Iran is wholeheartedly supporting Syria's massacres and Hezbollah's terrorist army in Lebanon, and the US has failed to publicly push those aspects of the regime.

Most of all, the Obama administration's actions vis a vis Iran have not been to support Israel; they are to defend Western interests. Not that there is anything wrong with this, of course; this is what nations are supposed to do. Nevertheless, in that sense the narrative in the Democratic video is a little deceptive. US actions on Iran have been meant to try to stop Israel from attacking on its own at least as much as they have been to try to stop Iran from getting closer to building a bomb. Sending Patriot missiles to Israel is nice, but in a sense it shows that the US is starting to consider a nuclear Iran a fait accompli.

As far as the Palestinian issue is concerned, the Obama administration has continued previous US policies of vetoing one-sided Security Council resolutions against Israel. But it has been the most consistently pro-Palestinian Arab administration ever, completely adopting the Arab narrative on settlements and the 1967 lines, ignoring (at least in public) previous commitments given by the Bush and Clinton administrations on Israel's security, publicly pressuring only the Israeli side and providing Palestinian Arabs with political cover for their intransigence. Perhaps the peace process was moribund before he entered office, but it completely fell apart under Obama - and this is after Israel implemented a settlement freeze that, according to conventional wisdom, should have brought Abbas to the table.

Abbas himself explained it best when he said that he is simply waiting for Washington to pressure Israel to do everything he wants.

Obama's record on Israel is not as anti-Israel as the ECI video implies. As I wrote at the time, Obama's "1967 lines" speech also included many very good points, and it seems that Obama's original public position that was exactly congruent with J-Street has shifted a little towards realism.

I don't know how much of that is from his learning anew what previous presidents had already learned about Palestinian Arab duplicity, and how much is simply his desire to get re-elected.

UPDATE: Obama's speech at AIPAC.