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Failed Promise: A Wavering Obama Friendship With Israel

- December 16, 2011

Obama Has Failed To Live Up To His Promise For An “Unwavering Friendship With Israel”

Today, President Obama Will Speak Before The Union Of Reform Judaism“President Obama will speak next week to a large gathering of North American Jews, the Union of Reform Judaism announced on Tuesday. The group, which is considered more liberal than the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, will hold its annual meeting Dec. 14-16 in the Washington area.”(Helene Cooper, “Obama To Address Reform Jews,” The New York Times’ The Caucus, 12/6/11)

Obama Promised An “Unwavering Friendship With Israel” But U.S.-Israel Relations Are At Their Lowest Point In Decades:

In 2008, Obama Said That He Would Maintain “An Unwavering Friendship With Israel, And An Unshakeable Commitment To Its Security.” “That is the change we need in our foreign policy. Change that restores American power and influence. Change accompanied by a pledge that I will make known to allies and adversaries alike: that America maintains an unwavering friendship with Israel, and an unshakeable commitment to its security.” (Barack Obama, Remarks To AIPAC, Washington, D.C. 6/4/08)

Vice President Biden In Boca Raton, FL, “Told The Rabbis That The Administration Had Made A Few Missteps In Its Handling Of The Israel Relationship.” “Mr. Biden told the rabbis that the administration had made a few missteps in its handling of the Israel relationship, including Mr. Obama’s decision not to go to Jerusalem as president, after he made his famous Cairo speech in 2009 in which he elevated the plight of the Palestinians to equal status with the Israelis’. (In fact, it was Mr. Biden who traveled to Israel that year, in what ended up being a disastrous trip in which the Israeli government announced new settlements just before his meeting with Mr. Netanyahu, prompting a sharp response from the Obama administration that included an irate 45-minute telephone call from Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to Mr. Netanyahu.)” (Helene Cooper, “Obama Turns To Biden To Reassure Jewish Voters, And Get Them To Contribute, Too,” New York Times, 9/30/11)

Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT): "Obviously, there have been some very tough moments between Israel and President Obama on questions such as his call for a so-called settlement freeze and the statement that he wanted to have Israel begin negotiations returning to the '67 borders.” (“Lieberman Backs Obama, Sort Of, On Claim Of Support For Israeli Security,” Fox News, 12/1/11) 

In November 2011, Obama Was Caught On Open Mic With French President “Expressing Their Exasperation” With Israeli Leader:

Obama And French President Sarkozy Were Caught On An Open Mic “Expressing Their Exasperation” With Israeli Leader Benjamin Netanyahu At The G20 Conference. “President Obama and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, were reportedly caught in a candid moment expressing their exasperation with Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu - with the French president referring to him as a ‘liar.’” (Tucker Reals, “Obama Sarkozy Reportedly Fed Up With Netanyahu,” CBS News11/8/11)

  • “‘I Cannot Bear Netanyahu, He's A Liar,’ The French President Was Heard To Say.” (Tucker Reals, “Obama Sarkozy Reportedly Fed Up With Netanyahu,” CBS News11/8/11)
  • “In Response, According To The Account By Arret Sur Images, Mr. Obama Sympathizes With Sarkozy's Frustration, Saying, ‘You're Fed Up, But I Have To Deal With Him Every Day.’” (Tucker Reals, “Obama Sarkozy Reportedly Fed Up With Netanyahu,” CBS News11/8/11)

In May 2011, Obama Urged Israel To Withdraw To The 1967 Borders Called “Indefensible” By Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

Obama Spoke In May 2011 Calling For Israel To Withdraw To The 1967 Borders For A Two State Solution. “Forcefully stepping into an explosive Middle East debate, President Barack Obama on Thursday endorsed a key Palestinian demand for the borders of its future state and prodded Israel to accept that it can never have a truly peaceful nation based on ‘permanent occupation.’ Obama’s urging that a Palestinian state be based on 1967 borders — before the Six Day War in which Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza — was a significant shift in the U.S. approach. It drew an immediate negative response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is to meet with Obama at the White House Friday.” (Ben Feller, “Obama Urges Israel To Go Back To 1967 Borders,” The Associated Press, 5/19/11)

Washington Post: “Democrats Join Republicans In Questioning Obama’s Policy On Israel.” (Peter Wallsten, “Democrats Join Republicans In Questioning Obama’s Policy On Israel,” Washington Post, 5/24/11)

  • Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV): “The place where negotiating will happen must be at the negotiating table – and nowhere else.” (Josh Gerstein, “Harry Reid Rebukes Barack Obama Over Israel,” Politico5/24/11)
    • Reid: “No One Should Set Premature Parameters About Borders, About Building, Or About Anything Else.” (Josh Gerstein, “Harry Reid Rebukes Barack Obama Over Israel,” Politico5/24/11)
    • Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) “Suggested Sunday That Israel Should Not Be Required To Shrink Its Borders As A Precondition Of Peace Talks With The Palestinians.” (Mike Lillis, “Hoyer Bucks Obama On Israeli Borders,” The Hill, 5/22/11)
    • Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ): “A two-state solution agreed upon by the Israelis and Palestinians should be negotiated through direct talks, but it is important to remember that a full return to the 1967 borders will be indefensible for Israel and that talking with terrorists who want to destroy Israel is a non-starter.”  (Rep. Steve Rothman, “Congressman Rothman's Statement on President Obama's Middle East Speech,” 5/20/11)
    • Rep. Robert Andrews (D-NJ): The United States Should Not Employ Its “Influence To Compel Israel To Withdraw To Its Pre-1967 Borders.” “My support for these principles is precisely the reason that I disagree strongly with the proposal to employ US influence to compel Israel to withdraw to its pre-1967 borders. Israel's acquisition of territory since that date has been for one reason alone-- to defend herself against aggression that threatens the existence of the only state in the Middle East that practices democracy and respects human rights.” (Rep. Robert Andrews, Press Release, 5/19/11)

Obama Ambassador And Fundraiser “Blames Israel For Anti-Semitism”:

Weekly Standard: “Obama Fundraiser And Ambassador Blames Israel For Anti-Semitism.” “The U.S. ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, recently told a conference hosted by the European Jewish Union that Israel is to blame for growing anti-Semitism harbored by people of Muslim faith. ‘A distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,’ Gutman reportedly said, according to the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. ‘He also argued that an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty will significantly diminish Muslim anti-Semitism.’ According to the account in the Israeli paper, ‘The legal experts at the event were visibly stunned by Gutman’s words, and the next speaker offered a scathing rebuttal to the envoy’s remarks.’” (Daniel Halper, “Obama Fundraiser And Ambassador Blames Israel For Anti-Semitism,” Weekly Standard’s “The Blog,” 12/3/11)

ABC News: “US Ambassador Under Fire For Comments On Anti-Semitism.” “The US Ambassador to Belgium, Howard Gutman, finds himself under fire this morning for comments he made about the roots of some Muslim anti-Semitism, comments from which the White House distanced itself. Yedioth Ahronoth, an Israeli newspaper, reported Friday that Gutman told a Jewish conference on anti-Semitism organized by the European Jewish Union that – as the newspaper described it – ‘a distinction should be made between traditional anti-Semitism, which should be condemned and Muslim hatred for Jews, which stems from the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.’” (Jake Tapper, “US Ambassador Under Fire For Comments On Anti-Semitism,” ABC News, 12/4/11)

Under Obama, American Middle East Policy Is “Adrift”:

In 2008, Barack Obama Said As President He Would Make Middle East Peace A Top Priority. “As president, I will work to help Israel achieve the goal of two states, a Jewish state of Israel and a Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security. And I won't wait until the waning days of my presidency. I will take an active role, and make a personal commitment to do all I can to advance the cause of peace from the start of my administration.” (Barack Obama, Remarks To AIPAC, Washington, D.C. 6/4/08)

Today, The Associated Press Writes That “Obama Mideast Policy Adrift Amid Crises.” “The world's lone superpower has become superpowerless in one of the world's most intractable conflicts. Boxed in by competing political and diplomatic agendas, the United States has lost the ability to stop either the Israelis or the Palestinians from acting against the interests of U.S.-backed peace efforts and against the express wishes of the United States.” (Matthew Lee, “Analysis: Obama Mideast Policy Adrift Amid Crises,” The Associated Press, 11/3/11)

  • Obama Administration “Either Unwilling Or Unable To Push The Two Sides To The Bargaining Table Or Stop Them From Taking Actions That Further Damage The Prospects For Relaunching Moribund Peace Talks.” “Palestinians are pressing their bid for recognition at the United Nations and membership in U.N. agencies. The Israelis respond by accelerating settlement activity and withholding Palestinian tax revenue. The Obama administration is either unwilling or unable to push the two sides to the bargaining table or stop them from taking actions that further damage the prospects for relaunching moribund peace talks.” (Matthew Lee, “Analysis: Obama Mideast Policy Adrift Amid Crises,” The Associated Press, 11/3/11)

The Washington Post: The Administration’s Efforts On The Israel-Palestinian Issue “Has Been Stalled And Sometimes Poorly Executed.” “Even the most sympathetic observer of the administration’s efforts on the Israel-Palestinian issue would have to concede the diplomacy has been stalled and sometimes poorly executed.” (Glenn Kessler, “Obama and Israel: Stalled Diplomacy Or ‘Suspicion And Distrust’?” The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” Blog, 7/11/11)

  • The Washington Post: “The Administration Has Few, If Any, Achievements To Brag About Despite Having Invested Significant Diplomatic Capital In The Israeli-Palestinian Issue.” “After 2 ½ years, the administration has few, if any, achievements to brag about despite having invested significant diplomatic capital in the Israeli-Palestinian issue. If anything, one could make a case that the two sides are further apart because of the administration’s actions, though, to be fair, ultimately it is up to the Israelis and Palestinians to make peace, not the United States.” (Glenn Kessler, “Obama and Israel: Stalled Diplomacy Or ‘Suspicion And Distrust’?”The Washington Post’s “Fact Checker” Blog, 7/11/11)

But Obama’s Defense Secretary Blames Israel, Saying “Just Get To The Damned Table”:

Obama Defense Secretary Blames Israel For Administration’s Failure On Middle East, Saying “Just Get To The Damned Table.” “Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called on Israel Friday to ‘reach out and mend fences’ with Turkey, Egypt and other security partners in the Middle East, saying he is troubled by the Jewish state’s growing isolation in the volatile region. He also urged Israeli leaders to do more to restart peace talks with the Palestinians and underscored President Barack Obama’s determination to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. … In a question-and-answer session with his audience after his speech, Panetta was asked what Israel should do to get peace talks back on track. ‘Just get to the damned table,’ Panetta replied.” (“Pentagon Chief Laments Israel’s Growing ‘Isolation’ From Traditional Partners Like Turkey,” The Associated Press, 12/2/11)

  • Secretary Panetta “Spoke Sternly On Friday To America’s Closest Ally In The Middle East.” “Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta spoke sternly on Friday to America’s closest ally in the Middle East, telling Israel that it is partly responsible for its increasing isolation and that it now must take ‘bold action’ – diplomatic, not military – to mend ties with its Arab neighbors and settle previously intractable territorial disputes with the Palestinians. ‘I believe security is dependent on a strong military, but it is also dependent on strong diplomacy,’ Mr. Panetta said. ‘And unfortunately, over the past year, we have seen Israel’s isolation from its traditional security partners in the region grow, and the pursuit of a comprehensive Middle East peace has effectively been put on hold.’” (Thom Shanker, “Defense Chief Says Israel Must Mend Arab Ties,” The New York Times, 12/2/11)

And “One Of The Worst U.S.-Israeli Feuds In Memory” Occurred Under Obama In 2010:

The Associated Press: “One Of The Worst U.S.-Israeli Feuds In Memory.” “A U.S. envoy's postponement of his Mideast trip appeared Tuesday to deepen one of the worst U.S.-Israeli feuds in memory — even as Israel's foreign minister signaled his government had no intention of curtailing the contentious construction at the heart of the row.” (Amy Teibel, “US Mideast Envoy Cancels Jerusalem Trip, Deepening Feud With Israel,” The Associated Press3/16/10)

While Joe Biden Was Visiting Israel, The Israeli Interior Ministry Announced The Construction Of 1,600 New Homes In East Jerusalem. “The White House has condemned Israel's approval of 1600 new settler homes in east Jerusalem and says the timing of the move is not helpful with US Vice President Joe Biden in the country. ‘The United States condemns the decision today by the government of Israel,’ White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on Tuesday. Gibbs said that neither the substance nor the timing of the announcement was helpful.” (“US Condemns Israel Settlements Decision,” AFP, 3/10/10)

Vice President Biden Publically Condemned Israel’s Announcement.  BIDEN: “I condemn the decision by the government of Israel to advance planning for new housing units in East Jerusalem.” (“Statement by Vice President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.,” The White House, 3/9/10)

  • President Obama Was “Deeply Involved” In The Harsh Response To Israel. “Mr. Obama was deeply involved in the strategy and planning for Mr. Biden’s visit and orchestrated the response from Mr. Biden and Mrs. Clinton after it went awry, these officials said.” (Mark Landler and Ethan Bronner, “Israel Feeling Rising Anger From The U.S.,” The New York Times, 3/15/10)

At The Same Time, Republicans And Democrats Agree That The Obama Administration Is Failing On Iran:

“In A Rare Outpouring Of Bipartisan Criticism,” Democrats And Republicans “Charged That The White House Is Not Moving Aggressively Enough To Stop Iran From Building A Nuclear Weapon.” “Democrats and Republicans said the White House is not moving aggressively enough to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. In a rare outpouring of bipartisan criticism, lawmakers Thursday charged that the White House is not moving aggressively enough to stop Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate hammered administration officials for what they said is a lack of urgency about Tehran’s nuclear work.” (John Bennett, “Lawmakers Hit The White House On Iran, Say Urgency Is Lacking,” The Hill, 12/1/11)

  • Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D-PA): “There is a … sense of urgency in our country, but there doesn’t seem to be an administration policy that is commensurate with that urgency.”  (John Bennett, “Lawmakers Hit The White House On Iran, S

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