Obama Must Rebuild Trust on Israel

Monday, 26 Apr 2010 12:57 PM

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On March 22, I wrote my first commentary denouncing the Obama administration for its hostile and unfair actions and words directed at Israel.

It was clear that President Obama had orchestrated a campaign to blame Israel for the lack of progress in achieving peace with the Palestinians, notwithstanding the Palestinians’ repeated rejection of Israel’s peace offers.

The objective of this campaign was to reorient U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Arab direction.

I predicted there would be efforts after the damage had been done to paper the matter over, “but the relations will never be the same again. Humpty Dumpty has been broken and the absolute trust needed between allies is no longer there. How sad it is for the supporters of Israel who put their trust in President Obama.”

I was shocked at the silence of the supporters of Israel in Congress and that of many of the Jewish community leaders throughout the nation. It looked to me like a repeat of the 1930s, when many Jews in the United States remained mute about the Nazis’ treatment of Jews because they were worried they would be considered disloyal and unpatriotic if they protested against the world’s indifference toward that abuse.

I wrote, “We who have learned the lessons of silence, Jews and Christians alike, must speak up now before it is too late.”

The plan of the Obama administration to reduce the ties between the United States and Israel led me to write, “I have never been so terrified.”

Then people apparently woke up to what was happening. In a Quinnipiac University poll taken on April 22, the Jewish community responded to this question, “Do you approve or disapprove of the way Barack Obama is handling the situation between Israel and the Palestinians?”

Their response: 28 percent approved, while 67 percent disapprove. Other groups responded: Protestants, 26 percent approved and 54 percent disapproved; Catholics, 34 percent approved, while 44 percent disapproved; whites, 30 percent approved, and 49 percent disapproved; and blacks, 68 percent approved, while 20 percent disapproved.

Another question in the poll was, “From what you know about the situation in the Middle East, do your sympathies lie more with Israel or more with the Palestinians?”

Republicans backing Israel tallied 70 percent, while those for the Palestinians, 8 percent. Among Democrats, it was 46 percent for Israel and 19 percent for Palestinians.

Another question, “Do you think the president of the United States should be a strong supporter of Israel or not?”

The response among Jews: He should, 94 percent; he should not 3 percent. Protestants: yes, 72 percent; no, 15 percent. Catholics: yes, 67 percent; no, 22 percent. Whites: yes, 68 percent; no, 17 percent. Blacks: yes, 65 percent; no, 19 percent.

The last question: “Do you think President Obama is a strong supporter of Israel or not?”

Responses from Jews were yes, 50 percent; no, 46 percent. Among Protestants, yes, 23 percent; no, 54 percent. Catholics, yes, 35 percent; no, 41 percent. Whites, yes, 31 percent; no, 45 percent. Blacks, yes, 54 percent; no, 24 percent.

On this issue, Jews apparently are a very forgiving community.

The Obama administration weighed the wreckage of its efforts to change our foreign policy and make it less supportive of Israel than at any time in our history and decided on a new tack. Then the president wrote a letter dated April 20, addressed to Alan P. Solow, Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations:

“Thank you for expressing your concerns to my staff about our policies in the Middle East. Since we have known each other for a long time, I am sure you can distinguish between the noise and distortion about my views that have appeared recently, and the actual approach of my Administration toward the Middle East. For over 60 years, American Presidents have believed that pursuing peace between Arabs and Israelis is in the national security interests of the United States. I share that understanding and have made the pursuit of peace, including a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a top priority from my first day in office. I am deeply committed to fulfilling the important role the United States must play for peace to be realized, but I also recognize that in order for any agreement to endure, peace cannot be imposed from the outside; it must be negotiated directly by the leaders who are required to make the hard choices and compromises that take on history. We are determined to help them, particularly because the status quo does not serve the interests of Israel, the Palestinians, or the United States. As for our relations with Israel, let me be very clear: we have a special relationship with Israel and that will not change. Our countries are bound together by shared values, deep and interwoven connections, and mutual interests. Many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and our efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests. As we continue to strive for lasting peace agreements between Israel, the Palestinians, and Israel’s neighbors, all sides should understand that our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable and that no wedge will be driven between us. We will have our differences, but when we do, we will work to resolve them as close allies. I look forward to continuing our work together on behalf of peace.”

I accept the letter as having been written in good faith. I cannot state that it restores my absolute good faith in the president. The unique trust that I and so many others, Christians and Jews, placed in him on the issue of supporting our close alliance with the Jewish state does not exist to the same extent, so I will look more to his actions than to his words.

However, his letter is a start that I hope will be followed with concrete deeds.

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