Israel, Politics

Obama flexes his "pro-Israel" muscle on Gaza

Looks like the attacks on Obama’s “pro-Israel” bonafides are paying off…
Yesterday, while hundreds of thousands of Gazans flooded through the demolished border with Egypt simply to get food and basic supplies after nearly a week of complete border closures imposed by Israel, Sen. Barack Obama sent the following letter to US Ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad:

Dear Ambassador Khalilzad,
I understand that today the U.N. Security Council met regarding the situation in Gaza, and that a resolution or statement could be forthcoming from the Council in short order.
I urge you to ensure that the Security Council issue no statement and pass no resolution on this matter that does not fully condemn the rocket assault Hamas has been conducting on civilians in Southern Israel for over two years.
All of us are concerned about the impact of closed border crossings on Palestinian families. However, we have to understand why Israel is forced to do this. Gaza is governed by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization sworn to Israel’s destruction, and Israeli civilians are being bombarded by rockets on an almost daily basis. That is unacceptable and Israel has a right to respond while seeking to minimize any impact on civilians.
The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks against Israel, and should make clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against such actions. If it cannot bring itself to make these common sense points, I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all.
Barack Obama
United States Senator

To be clear, I’m one of those who actually believe Obama IS the best candidate for Israel precisely because he will be a strong supporter of Israel AND someone who can strengthen Israel’s security through peace with its Arab neighbors. So I greet this letter with sadness.
There’s no need for a letter like this. We know Obama condemns attacks on Israel and believes Israel has a right to defend itself. Even Dennis Kucinich says that. But for someone who handles every other foreign affairs issue with such nuance and care, this is disappointing.

The aggressive nature of the letter is Giuliani-esque in fake toughness. There should be “no statement” and “no resolution” if they don’t condemn the attacks. Otherwise, the Security Council should “not speak at all.” And the notion that “Israel is forced to do this” (ie, cutoff fuel and close Gaza’s borders) is foreign policy nonsense. Israel absolutely has a choice about how it responds to the rocket attacks, and Obama knows this. It has chosen blockade and the results are apparent: near humanitarian crisis in Gaza and no decrease in support for Hamas.
For someone who is so appealing because he recognizes the world as it is, complex with many shades of grey, this black and white analysis of what’s happening in Gaza can be nothing more than pure political grandstanding.
My only hope is that this letter will appease the ridiculous fears of the American Jewish center so he can get their support on his way to the White House, and that this statement and others he may still make in the weeks ahead won’t come back to haunt him when he gets down to the real work of being a US president.
And for a better way to be a “pro-Israel” candidate, check out Gershom Gorenberg’s recent article in the American Prospect, “What does it mean to be the pro-Israel candidate?“.

20 thoughts on “Obama flexes his "pro-Israel" muscle on Gaza

  1. How is it black and white to insist that the Security Council not unilaterally condemn a country for responding to a declaration of war? If anything, Obama is insisting that the UN finally approach the Israel-Palestine conflict with the kind of nuance that has been lacking in its insipid, one-sided condemnations and tacit support of human rights atrocities.

  2. Thanks for the clarification EV. I didn’t mean to suggest that his point isnt correct. It is absolutely valid. Its the language and focus of the letter, particularly the statement that “Israel is forced to do this” that is surprsingly black and white.
    And an update already. Former Israeli Ambassador Dani Ayalon has added himself to the attack dogs on Obama.

  3. All of us are concerned about the impact of closed border crossings on Palestinian families. However, we have to understand why Israel is forced to do this.
    Can we take a step back? How have we let ourselves get to the point where the core debate is whether Gaza residents should be allowed to enter Israel for necessities? The goal should be a self-sufficient economy in the territories, so that Israel can defend its borders in whatever way is necessary without depriving Gaza residents of basic needs or depriving West Bank residents of access to jobs.

  4. Backbeat: Glad your guy is saying what you want to hear.
    Politicians are liars. Their records speak louder than their words. Problem with your guy is that he has no record. And has accomplished nothing. He looks good and sounds good.
    So does George Clooney.

  5. Last I looked Gaza has a major border with Egypt, that fellow Muslim country. Gaza should be Egypt’s responsibility, not Israel’s. Maybe if the Muslim’s spent a little less time displaying their solidarity with the Palestinians by murdering Jews, they could support their co-religionists who are literally next to them by providing the goods, utilities etc. that the Palestinians need.
    In a free election the Gazians voted for Hamas, a party that is ata self declared war to the death with Israel – so it is Israel’s responsibility to take care of them?

  6. I don’t understand why this letter surprises you, Obama has proven himself to be a world class panderer, he speaks in generalities and says what people want to hear, whether they are dems, republicans or centrists.
    I’m curious why you think Obama would be more effective with ME policy than the other dems. I have not heard anything from him that would support your assertion.

  7. >>There’s no need for a letter like this. We know Obama condemns attacks on Israel and believes Israel has a right to defend itself. But for someone who handles every other foreign affairs issue with such nuance and care, this is disappointing.
    How exactly can we “know” this unless he says it?! Can we simply intuit it from his hairdo or his insistence on “change”?
    You’re “saddened” that Sen. Obama would like the UN to condemn terrorist attacks against Israelis? OK so would you instead prefer the usual “nuance and balance” that the UN typically deploys against Israel? I find that deeply odd. Is it “nuance and balance” you really want–or simply a declaration that Israel must bear a cross of guilt?
    >>And an update already. Former Israeli Ambassador Dani Ayalon has added himself to the attack dogs on Obama.
    <a href=”” Article.

    I just don’t see why it’s “attack dog”-ish to ask that a candidate simply explain what he believes? The guy wants to run the country–so are citizens entitled to ask for clear positions on, oh, maybe at least 3 or 4 issues? Among all the candidates Obama has been especially lacking in that quality so far.

  8. “…simply to get food and basic supplies after nearly a week of complete border closures imposed by Israel”
    That tells us your opinion right there!
    You don’t even mention the bombings.
    But they have to do something when their citizens are being blown up.
    You get into a fit over the American government violating civil liberties. Doesn’t the Israeli government have the obligation to look out for the lives of its citizens?

  9. backbeat writes:
    We know Obama condemns attacks on Israel and believes Israel has a right to defend itself.
    Eric writes:
    How exactly can we “know” this unless he says it?!
    He has said it. From this document from Obama’s website:
    “During the July 2006 Lebanon war, Barack Obama stood up strongly
    for Israel’s right to defend itself from Hezbollah raids and rocket attacks. Obama is an original cosponsor of the
    Senate resolution expressing support for Israel, condemning the attacks, and calling for strong action against
    Iran and Syria. Throughout the war, Barack Obama made clear that Israel should not be pressured into a
    ceasefire that did not deal with the threat of Hezbollah missiles. In addition, Obama signed a letter to the
    European Union pressing the EU to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization.”

  10. It amazes me that even after Obama sends what is clearly a “pro-Israel” letter meant to appease the American Jewish community, some attack it as a fake.
    So I don’t actually know how I can prove that it is real. Would you like to see the mail receipt from the UN?
    For now, we are going to have to trust that if the JTA (the main wire for the American Jewish press, and incredibly well respected) is willing to print a story on it, then it’s true. Otherwise, we have bigger problems to worry about.

  11. Hey folks,
    Naeem here – the one who questioned the source of the letter (Thanks for the link Adam!)
    I do have some serious reservations about its authenticity. Seeing that media coverage of the election season has kicked into high gear and everytime Obama scratches his ass, its headline news – I’m a bit curious why this letter got no play with the big boys in the media.
    How come only JTA and Shmuel Rosner (on his blog at Haaretz) found it noteworthy to cover? Am I the only one who found that a bit odd?
    And I’m wondering where you found the above copy (as its missing the infamous dots that I referred to in my post) – do you have the source?

  12. Alas, the letter is authentic. I called the U.S. UN Mission & they confirmed it. Rosner, who first reported it, was POed that I questioned its authenticity. But this seemed to tell me that the ltr. was authentic. After a low level OBama staffer denied that he had written the ltr. the same staffer finally acknowledged he had. So there you have it.
    Backbeat is entirely right that this is a deeply depressing ltr. fr. Obama & indicates how tough the race in FL is going to be. Because this ltr. is surely targeted at all those Jewish retiree primary voters there. Obama seems to feel that the only thing they want to hear is red meat on Israel. It’s a shame when candidates pander to communities like this & believe that voters can’t understand a nuanced position.
    Obama’s also petrified that Clinton will hammer him on not being pro-Israel enough. The result is that good policy is trumped by election pandering.
    I’m also guessing that this ltr. in whole or in part was written either by AIPAC or by someone closely allied w. AIPAC. The tone & argument have AIPAC written all over it.
    My own blog post on the ltr. is linked to this comment.

  13. What is all this nonsense about “nuance”? The issue has always been black and white. The arabs have always sought to destroy Israel, and Israel has been absurdly restrained in its response. Is this really a Jewish website?

  14. Frank, sadly this is a Jewish website. Some small segment of the Jewish people, overly represented here, have been captured by the leftist ethos and bought into the idea that Jews are morally inferior to the rest of the world: Jews have no right to defend themselves, Jews have no right to a homeland, Jews are morally inferior to others (they won’t say that outright, of course, but that’s where the logic of their position leads). Perhaps it the Stockholm syndrom, perhaps its millenia of being the outcast “other”. Which makes no difference, it means that some of us, reading the sacred books of Judaism through a perverted prism, justfiy our own murder, our own greater sympathy for our enemies than for ourselves. Be assured though, that the majority of Jews in this world, in America and Israel, will stand firm, we will never again allow ourselves to be led like lambs to the slaughter. We are a brave and determined and G-d led people, and we will persevere against our internal and external enemies. For we have G-d, merit and justice on our side; and we will prevail.

  15. There is no rationale to question Obama’s support for Israel’s security– just as there is no rationale to question Clinton’s support for Israel’s security. It’s something that the Democrats all agree upon.
    The question is what is the wisest policy for Israeli security– and that’s not even something Israelis are universally agreed upon.
    Anyone who thinks morality is about choosing between good and evil is either child or a sociopath. Moral reasoning is for determining what is the lesser evil– those are the decisions that vex adult humans with a somewhat functioning moral compass. Israel is in a tough bind of trying to determine the best way to defend its civilian population and still do the least amount of harm to the Palestinians in Gaza– not doing any harm and not defending Israeli civilians are simply not available options.
    What’s your solution? Nothing? Air strikes? Surrender? Targeted assassination? Invasion and re-occupation? Blockade?
    Are any of these options morally “pure?” Can any of these be enacted without making a mistake?

  16. “But for someone who handles every other foreign affairs issue with such nuance and care…”
    uhh, what? can you maybe site some examples to support this fantasy statement?

  17. Keep posting irrelevant statements and maybe we’ll bother. Go ahead.
    RC, this is the candidate who promised to speak with the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, and North Korea. The fact that he’s so stand-offy with Hamas raises some eyebrows.

  18. It is sad to see Obama will not bring any change to the Middle East, and support occupation and imperialist practices. I feel that if someone came into my house, said it was given to them by the british and has religious significance, then proceeds to murder my family members, take whatever they want and trash the rest, I would be justified in defending myself and my land by any means neccessary.

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