Obama has “got our back”?

Published in Israel Hayom, March 4, 2012

Forgive me if Obama’s current charm offensive leaves me skeptical of the depth of his sincerity and commitment when it comes to Israel. I don’t at all feel that Obama “has Israel’s back.”

“Why is it that despite me never failing to support Israel on every single problem that they’ve had over the last three years, that there are still questions about that (– about my being pro-Israel)?” complained US President Barack Obama in the big interview he gave to Jeffery Goldberg published Friday in The Atlantic.

“There is no good reason to doubt me on these issues,” Obama grumbled. “I have made a more full-throated defense of Israel and its legitimate security concerns than any president in history… I have kept every single commitment I have made to the state of Israel and its security… We’ve got Israel’s back. That’s something that I constantly try to reinforce and remind people of.”

Unfortunately, Obama’s adamant protestations of support for Israel, along with his declaration to Goldberg that he is “not bluffing” when it comes to stopping the Iranian drive for nuclear weapons, don’t wash. Methinks he dost protest too much.

Firstly, the recent upgrades in US-Israel intelligence sharing and weapons development about which Obama boasts at length in the Atlantic interview are (aside from being a benefit to America well as Israel) primarily aimed at holding us back from attacking Iran. Like the interview itself, we know that the enhanced security cooperation is a bear-hug meant to handcuff Israel.

Secondly, President Obama spent most of his first term, before the election cycle kicked-in, distancing himself from Netanyahu, attempting to wedge Israel into a 1967 borders negotiating track against its will, and making a fuss about Israeli building in Jerusalem.

Thirdly, America on Obama’s watch seems to be a confused and unpredictable superpower and a fair-weather friend. This ranges from the strange burst of military activism in Libya to a lack of activism against Assad in Syria. From the abandonment of Mubarak to the coddling of Erdogan. From obsequiousness towards the King of Saudi Arabia to brutishness towards Netanyahu.

Fourthly, Obama has wandered around the region apologizing for American assertiveness and wasting precious time in a feckless attempt to “engage” the Iranians.

Fifthly, is the current attempt to convince us that sanctions can stop the Iranians. This is what Obama said: “(When) these (tough) kinds of sanctions are applied, it puts a world of hurt on them on Iran. So if (Iran) is presented with options that lead to either a lot of pain from their perspective, or potentially a better path, then there’s no guarantee that they can’t make a better decision.”

Again: “There is no guarantee that Iran can’t make a better decision.” Maybe Iran will just drop its nuclear weapons program, like Libya, Obama says. There is no guarantee that Ahmadinejad will make the wrong decision, he says. Maybe he’ll decide to see things Obama’s way. Maybe. There is no guarantee that he won’t.

Here’s the problem: I can’t believe that President Obama is naïve enough to believe such convoluted, double-negative gobbledygook. Thus, I can only assume that he is being disingenuous. Since he can’t be silly enough to base American strategic planning on such faulty thinking, I can only assume that he is more concerned about an Israeli strike on Iran than the Iranian threat to Israel. So, no, I don’t feel that Obama “has Israel’s back.”

I know that the American President feels that he is a “profound” friend of Israel with a “profound” understanding of the “profoundly dangerous” situation that Israel feels itself in. He asserts a “profound” preference for peace over war, a “profound” understanding of the security interests of the United States, a concern for the “pretty profound” potential disruptions to the world economy that war with Iran would entail, and concern for the “profound” costs of any military action. Obviously, Obama considers himself a “profound” strategic thinker. (I counted nine ‘profounds’ in the one interview).

Nevertheless, forgive me if Obama’s current charm offensive leaves me skeptical of the depth of his profundity when it comes to Israel.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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