Rabbi Obama’s tough love

Published in Israel Hayom, June 4, 2015.

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The moralizing American president is going to muscle Israel back to the “true” moral values of Judaism and Zionism on which he is so expert. And if not, at least he will have driven a wedge between American Jews and Israel.


If anybody harbored doubts about what is in store for Israel over the next 19 months, President Obama has now made it clear: a long, painful political shellacking for what he sees as Prime Minister Netanyahu’s amoral behavior.

In order to rescue the lofty values of tikkun olam and kibbutz Zionism from the Neanderthal conservatives that threaten to ruin Israel, Obama is going to harangue and muscle Israel into a course correction – back to the “true” moral values of Judaism and Zionism on which he is so expert. He is on a crusade (or should I say, jihad) to save Israel from itself, no less.

That is the upshot of Rabbi Obama’s smug sermonizing of the past two weeks: in an Atlantic interview with Jeffrey Goldberg, at Adas Israel synagogue in Washington, and in an Israel television interview with Ilana Dayan. Obama is nostalgic for the good ‘ol days when WASP Israelis (white, Ashkenazi, secular and socialist, pioneers) ruled these parts and dreamt all day long of conceding the land they worked to the Palestinians and of bringing peace to the Middle East.

And since Obama so agonizes for wayward Israel, and since he is such an authority on “real” Judaism and “authentic” Zionism, he feels morally compelled to drive his point down the throats of Likud and Bayit Yehudi voters. It’s all for their own good. After all, he knows what is truly best for Israel.

It has taken almost forty years, but we now have in the White House a cross between the hyper-critical George W. Ball (see “How to save Israel in Spite of Herself,” Foreign Affairs, 1977) and the riotous-extremist Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun Magazine. Oy.

It goes without saying that the very judgmental Obama has no such tough love to share with the Palestinians or other radical, anti-Semitic and anti-American Islamists in the regions. He is not an expert on true Islam, you see, thus he dare not reproach them about their moral values. He didn’t grow up loving and admiring Anwar Sadat, like he did with Golda Meir and the kibbutzim.

So, Iran and ISIS can rape and pillage across the region – but Rabbi Obama knows mainly how to scold and squeeze Israel.

Mahmoud Abbas can accuse Israel of genocide, assault Israel with war crime charges at the International Criminal Court, laud terrorists in Jerusalem, cut “unity accords” with Hamas, maintain rejectionist positions on all the key peacemaking issues, and have his TV stations, newspapers and mosque preachers blather blood libels and other venalities about Jews as Nazis and Satan – but Rabbi Obama knows mainly how to scold and squeeze Israel.

Out of true love, don’t you know!

Obama’s moralizing appeal to Jewish and Zionist “values” is actually a sly trick. If you pitch your political views as “values” and your opponents’ position as a breach of “values,“ then your threat of punishment suddenly seems noble.

Hudson Institute expert Michael Doran theorizes that Obama’s moralizing appeal to “liberal values” is part of concerted attempt to distance American Jews from Netanyahu. After all, Obama represents “American Jewish values” better than Netanyahu! This, in turn, Doran posits, is meant to weaken opposition within the American Jewish community to Obama’s pact with Iran.

I don’t know whether the trick will work for the deal with Iran, but it is clear to me that Obama is attempting to soften up domestic opposition to a policy shift whereby the administration will effectively abandon Israel at the United Nations. Obama more than hinted at that in his Israeli television talk.

It is also evident that “Obamazionism” is indeed accelerating the divide between American Jews and Israel. Obama’s assailing of Netanyahu already is having a dangerous impact on the discourse about Israel among American Jewry.

In a pretentious article last week entitled “A message to centrist American Jews: Time to speak out,” E. Robert Goodkind and Martin J. Raffel of the Israel Policy Forum engage in new agonizing about Israel, moral values, and their roles.

Just like Rabbi Obama, they have discovered a “need” to be “true” to some conjured-up and pleasing “centrist values”; to have “honest” (i.e., frank) conversations with Israel; and to “speak-out honestly” to advance their “long-held principles.”

Just like Obama who “feels a responsibility to speak out honestly” about what he thinks will lead to long-term security and “to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland,” these American Jewish leaders assert a newfangled “obligation to act” so that Israel bows to their supreme, honest-centrist values.

Just like Obama, they “want honesty” and they want “to speak truth to power.” They employ the term “honest” no less than seven times.

“Honesty means telling the Israeli government that achieving peace with the Palestinians must be an active enterprise, not a goal grudgingly endorsed,” they add. “This involves leaving most of the West Bank,” declaim these centrist, expert, and honesty-seeking Jewish leaders.

Unfortunately, I’m not making up this headstrong stuff. It is amazingly arrogant: “We-know-better-than-the-Israelis-who-live-in-Israel-what-is-better-for-Israel-and-Jewish-values.” Alas, it dovetails neatly with the “saving Israel in spite of herself” discourse that Obama is inciting.

I say to Rabbi Obama and the IPF leaders: Spare us your honest exhortations. Enjoy your self-satisfying centrist values, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re doing Israel any favors by declaring the parameters of what withdrawals and other Israeli foreign and defense policies “must be.”

I say no thanks to your tough love. I encourage you to “confront your values” and reengage Israeli democracy on a more realistic and respectful basis.


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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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