Some have questioned President Barack Obama's commitment to maintaining America's special relationship with Israel, and his level of support for the Jewish state. The following 10 points should be kept in mind when considering this important issue.
1. Should a U.S. president defend Israel in private? When President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were alone after the G-20 meeting last November, with microphones inadvertently turned on, Sarkozy remarked about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, "I cannot stand him. He is a liar." President Obama replied, "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!"
|Sarkozy, Obama (AP)
2. Should a U.S. president affirm the historic right of the Jewish people to the land of Israel? In June 2009, in his renowned Cairo speech to the Muslim world, Obama declared that "the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied." In the speech he compared Palestinian suffering to Jewish persecution during the Holocaust, while implicitly denying the Jewish historical claim to Israel.
If Jewish claims to Israel are rooted in the Holocaust, they presumably are not rooted in earlier history.
3. Are Israel's pre-1967 borders defensible? President Obama seems to think so. He has repeatedly condemned all Israeli settlement activity. Last February, it was widely reported that the president had offered the Arab world a U.S. condemnation of all Israeli settlement activity as
The offer was rejected, and the U.S. then reluctantly vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would have declared all settlements illegal (as opposed to "illegitimate"). The president's willingness, even eagerness, to brand all settlements illegitimate carries an implied eventual demand of evacuation to pre-1967 borders.
4. Should a friend of Israel help her reach an amicable peace deal with her adversaries? By repeatedly condemning Israeli settlements without qualification, President Obama has diminished Israel's main bargaining chip in negotiations, namely giving up its rights to certain settlement areas, which rights Israel fought so hard to establish in the past (see U.N. Security Council resolution 248, adopted in March 1968).
5. Should a U.S. President make demands of Israel that even Arab leaders never made? Obama insisted on a total Israeli settlement freeze early in his term. In the last week of May 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that the president "wants to see a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural growth exceptions."
This effectively imposed a new pre-condition to further peace talks that no Arab leader had imposed, stopping the talks in their tracks. They still have not resumed.
6. Does a supporter of Israel ignore a most fundamental reason that true peace is so elusive? This is the steadfast Arab refusal to recognize Israel's Jewish character. No peace deal can be made without this essential building block; yet the president seems to pay scant attention to it.
7. Does a supporter of Israel make deals with terrorists? It was widely reported last week that Obama had struck a deal with the Taliban, to release Taliban prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay in exchange for the Taliban's opening up a "peace office" in Qatar.
8. Does a friend of Israel ignore Hamas, representing a majority of Palestinians? Hamas leadership has never deterred Obama from encouraging Israel to strike a deal with the Palestinians.
9. Does a friend of Israel call terror by its true name? Obama shuns use of the phrase "Islamic terror" and seems to exalt political correctness over reality.
10. Can Israel survive if America herself becomes insolvent? Out-of-control federal spending threatens America's solvency. Obama has overseen the largest growth in U.S. budget deficits in history. If America is destitute, Israel's prospects are dimmer.
Jeff Katz is an attorney who comments frequently on U.S. and Middle East policy.
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