Yesterday, the Emergency Committee for Israel — a group that has played a decisive role in the defeat of Democratic congressional candidates with checkered records of support for the Jewish state — called out President Obama for turning Israel into an international “punching bag.” The committee ran a hard-charging ad in five U.S. publications — the New York Times, the Miami Herald, the Palm Beach Post, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and Variety — calling on Obama “to stop blaming Israel first.”
According to the ad’s bill of particulars, President Obama colluded with French president Sarkozy to denigrate Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu at a G-20 summit meeting. When Sarkozy was caught on a hot microphone calling Netanyahu a “liar,” Obama did not utter a word of protest. Instead, he fanned European hostility toward Israel’s government, saying, “You’re sick of him, but I have to deal with him every day.” Defense Secretary Leon Panetta shifted the onus of blame for the failed peace talks to Israel, instead of citing Palestinian rejectionism. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton equated Israel with the Islamic Republic of Iran. And U.S. ambassador to Belgium Howard Gutman — an important Obama fundraiser — has blamed Israel for the outbreak of Muslim-animated anti-Semitism.
Yet Israel is the only rock-solid U.S. ally in the Middle East, and its most established democracy. At the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ annual Washington Forum last week, the organization’s chairman and former CIA director R. James Woolsey neatly captured the breakdown in U.S.-Israel relations: “From the start, the administration gave the impression it would be easy on enemies and tough on allies. All it needs to do now is pretend Assad and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are allies.”
All of this helps to explain why pro-Israel advocates are coming out swinging. William Kristol, a member of the Emergency Committee for Israel’s board, put it this way: “The pro-Israel wing of the pro-Israel community is punching back.”
The committee’s executive director, Noah Pollak, told the Israeli daily Haaretz: “In a month that has seen Islamists come to power in Egypt, rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza and Lebanon, progress on the Iranian nuclear program, and the continued slaughter of civilians in Syria, the Obama administration has chosen to repeatedly condemn the only liberal democracy in the region: Israel.”
Democrats are in a state of panic, and are working overtime to check Obama’s clumsy and misguided policies toward the Jewish state. But the Obama administration’s “Israel problem” will not vanish before the election.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.