Letter to the Editor, Politico.com
July 26, 2011
by Tevi Troy
Rep. Steve Rothman's attempt to convince people that President Barack Obama is pro-Israel ("Obama's Pro-Israel Record," POLITICO, July 25) fails on many levels. While he claims it is Republicans who "label the president as anti-Israel," concerns with Obama's problematic stance on Israel extend beyond the ranks of the GOP, in the U.S. and beyond. As The Wall Street Journal noted, even "Jewish fund-raisers for Mr. Obama say they regularly hear discontent among some supporters." Furthermore, a Jerusalem Post/Smith Poll found that only 12 percent of Israelis consider Obama to be pro-Israel.
On the substance, the weakest part of Rothman's argument is that it is predicated on U.S. military cooperation with Israel. Most of this cooperation, however, started long before Obama, and much of the credit belongs to Congress — where Israel is far more popular than at the White House. In addition, this cooperation is not some kind of favor that presidents bestow on Israel. It benefits both sides, and it is dangerous for the future of the relationship to suggest that military collaboration depends on a president's largesse.
Rothman focuses on military cooperation with Israel because he knows how strong the case that Obama is hostile to Israel is in other areas. Obama had Vice President Joe Biden criticize Israel during a visit to Israel. He tried to undercut Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of his visit to Washington. Obama has pushed Israel on construction of housing projects and tried to establish the start of negotiating efforts with the Palestinians at the 1967 borders — which Israel argues are indefensible.
Rothman notes the pressure President George H.W. Bush put on Israel in the early 1990s. American Jews noticed — and Jewish support for Bush dropped by 24 points between the 1988 and 1992 elections.
Perhaps Rothman's piece is evidence of his concern that American Jews could give Obama similar treatment.
Tevi Troy is a Visiting Fellow at Hudson Institute and served as the Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from 2007 until 2009.
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