President Obama was helped greatly by the many Jewish voters and supporters who supported him.
Obama’s relationship with Israel since coming to office has been troubling, to say the least, and has pushed Israel into a corner where it should not have been pushed by creating both expectations and demands that weakened Israel’s position and negotiating stance dramatically. It is true that his White House has not been friendly to the Goldstone Report, but it did join the UNHRC and has still not left despite the obvious bias against Israel exhibited there even since America’s joining. One could easily believe that the cold shoulder to Goldstone has less to do with Israel and more to do with America’s wars and ensuring that the US doesn’t support measures that could be used against the US army and political leadership.
Today, I believe, Obama has sent messages that can’t be ignored. After treating Netanyahu, the democratically elected PM of Israel, like dirt for the first several months of his tenure, Obama has possibly agreed to give Netanyahu a short evening meeting after delaying a decision to meet him for weeks. This can be contrasted with the handsome treatment accorded to Arab heads of state such as Jordan and Egypt, countries whose human rights records are objectionable on the best of days. Apparently they get plenty of face time in the middle of the day with Obama.
That, however, isn’t the real slap on the face. That would be the cancellation of Obama’s talk at the The Jewish Federations of North America’s annual General Assembly. While the reason is more than reasonable – he is attending the memorial for the murdered Fort Hood soldiers – the GA is taking place in DC over 3 days and one can’t escape the impression that Obama could have found a way to fulfill his commitment to attend, even if briefly and without giving the keynote address. Emanuel Rahm will attend instead, probably serving as
pacifier to those whiny, demanding Jews an ambassador to the Jewish community.
We can be certain that Emanuel Rahm will say all the right things about this Administration’s support for Israel. He will make a few funny one-liners, including a couple of self-deprecating ones. He’ll talk about the strong bonds between the two countries and how the US is adamant about pursuing peace in the Middle East.
It won’t matter. It has been made clear that this Administration prefers dictators who control their media and have no compunction about torturing people, to the Israeli leadership; that an audience filled with members who strongly supported Obama’s presidential campaign can be treated with nonchalance. In the meantime, Hillary goes around bending knees to dictators and undemocratic regimes in the Muslim and Arab worlds with Israel as the centerpiece of her commentary. Even mild praise for Israel is rescinded and tendentious statements about illegal settlements in east Jerusalem roll off tongues as if their implications aren’t extremely troubling and meaningful. To remind the Obama Administration, east Jerusalem had no Jews living in it from 1949-1967 because that’s how the Jordanians wanted it. It is not “Arab east Jerusalem” but the part of Jerusalem that holds the virtual heart of the Jewish people. Rahm knows this, of course, but it’s time to inform his boss in great detail.
On the Jewish voter end, it is time to acknowledge what has been obvious but hard to acknowledge for months now: Obama and his Administration are often working against Israel’s best interests, against Israel’s just claims and together with those who would harm Israel in a heartbeat if they could. And let me be clear that these actions are not necessarily in America’s best interests, or they would be far more understandable.
There is no reason for the Jewish community to permanently turn away from Obama, but a strong case can be made that we probably shouldn’t be as supportive of him or the Democratic party either in the short run. Perhaps it’s time to stand on the sidelines for a while and maybe even do so for the 2010 elections. There are some elections where the Jewish vote can be the difference between victory and loss, and there are also some where Jewish fundraising is critical. Why then let ourselves be taken for granted?
The problem isn’t that the Jewish community hasn’t done enough, it’s that for the Democrats the Jewish vote and fundraising are counted on automatically. The leadership, including Jewish Administration members David Axelrod and Emanuel Rahm, knows that there’s a lot of bandwidth between their treatment of the Jewish community or Israel and the point where the Jewish Democrat-vote and even financial support is endangered. That’s a problem that actually takes away the little leverage the community has, and the treatment of the GA and Netanyahu reflect this.
Mahmoud Abbas can throw fits, act all pouty, threaten to leave and then enjoy the benefit of being courted again. Why not the Jewish community? Why not create an incentive for the Democrats to fight for the Jewish vote? Make them sweat a bit. Then, maybe, just maybe, the President will think about us differently and hopefully without taking Jewish votes or donors for granted.