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Just More Words: Obama Walks Back Having “Israel’s Back”

- March 6, 2012

Does Obama Ever Mean His Statements On Israel?

AT TODAY’S PRESS CONFERENCE, OBAMA BACKTRACKS ON HIS STATEMENT THAT HE HAS “ISRAEL’S BACK” 

On Sunday, Obama Said “When The Chips Are Down, I Have Israel’s Back.” OBAMA: “So there should not be a shred of doubt by now -- when the chips are down, I have Israel’s back.” (President Barack Obama, Remarks At AIPAC, Washington, D.C., 3/4/12)

On Monday, Obama Said “The United States Will Always Have Israel’s Back When It Comes To Israel’s Security.” OBAMA: “And as I've said to the Prime Minister in every single one of our meetings, the United States will always have Israel's back when it comes to Israel's security.  This is a bond that is based not only on our mutual security interests and economic interests, but is also based on common values and the incredible people-to-people contacts that we have between our two countries.” (President Obama, Remarks Meeting With Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Washington, D.C., 3/6/12)

But On Tuesday, “Obama Clarified” His Statement Saying It Means The Same As It Does For Allies Like Great Britain And Japan, And Is Not Applicable To Iran. “President Obama clarified his statement from a speech Sunday Morning at AIPAC that he has Israel’s at press conference at the White House this afternoon. ‘What it means is that historically, we have always cooperated with Israel, with respect to the defense of Israel,’ the president said in response to a question today from ABC's Jake Tapper. But then Obama expanded the statement to say the relationship is not unique to Israel, but it’s similar to America’s relationship with its allies altogether. ‘Just like we do with the whole range of other allies, just like we do with Great Britain and Japan,’ Obama said. For Obama, however, having Israel’s back is ‘not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any particular military action’ – that is, it does not relate to Iran.” (Daniel Halper, “Obama: Having Israel’s Back ‘Not A Military Doctrine . . . For Any Particular Military Action,’” Weekly Standard’s “The Blog,” 3/6/12)

WHAT OBAMA MUST HAVE REALLY MEANT WHEN HE SAID HE HAS ISRAEL’S BACK

HAVING ISRAEL’S BACK = “Complicated”

The New York Times: “Much Has Divided” Obama And Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Much has divided the two leaders in the eight previous meetings they have held during the three years they have been in power, especially what Israel should do to promote peace with the Palestinians, including stopping settlement construction in the occupied West Bank.” (Ethan Bronner, “For Obama And Netanyahu, Wariness On Iran Will Dominate Talks,” The New York Times¸ 3/1/12)

  • Obama’s Relationship With Netanyahu Has Been “Complicated By Misunderstandings, Diplomatic Miscues And Occasional Differences Of Opinion.” “President Obama's relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been complicated by misunderstandings, diplomatic miscues and occasional differences of opinion.” (Aamer Madhani, “Iran Further Complicates Relations Between Obama, Netanyahu,” USA Today, 3/2/12)

HAVING ISRAEL’S BACK = “Missteps”

Vice President Biden, While Speaking With Rabbis In Boca Raton, FL, Admitted “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) 
  • Former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN): Obama’s “Israeli Policy Has Floundered.” “The Iran situation ‘is the toughest one for the president, and the one that could explode before the election,’ Hamilton said. ‘His Israeli policy has floundered. Iran is going to stay on the front burner because of the nuclear program.’” (Terry Atlas, “Obama’s ‘Pretty Strong Teflon’ Deflects Foreign Policy Criticism,” Bloomberg, 2/28/12)

HAVING ISRAEL’S BACK = “Low Point”

CNN: Relations Between Israel And The United States Reached “A Low Point” In March 2010. “Israel's settlement policy has become a friction point between Israel and the United States, with relations reaching a low point in March when Israel announced plans during a visit by Vice President Joe Biden to construct more than 1,000 new houses in East Jerusalem. The announcement outraged the Obama administration and led to the Palestinians' withdrawing from agreed-upon indirect negotiations with Israel. In a visit later in March to the United States, Netanyahu was presented with a set of concessions that the White House wanted to see Israel make in an effort to restart the negotiations.” (“Obama, Netanyahu Emphasize Strength Of U.S.-Israel Ties,” CNN.com, 7/6/10)

  • The Washington Post: The Dispute’s Dramatic Escalation Came “At The Direct Impetus Of Mr. Obama.” “The dispute's dramatic escalation since then seems to have come at the direct impetus of Mr. Obama. Officials said he outlined points for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to make in a searing, 45-minute phone call to Mr. Netanyahu on Friday.” (Editorial, “The U.S. Quarrel With Israel,” The Washington Post, 3/16/10)

HAVING ISRAEL’S BACK = Being Caught On An Open Mic Sympathizing With The French President Expressing Exasperation At Israel

Obama And French President Sarkozy Were Caught On An Open Mic “Expressing Their Exasperation” With 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)

HAVING ISRAEL’S BACK = Your Ambassador To Belgium 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)

HAVING ISRAEL’S BACK = Dictating To Israel

In May 2011, Obama “Endorsed A Key Palestinian Demand” And Called 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)

Headline: “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)

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. 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)


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