By: Joseph PuderThe AIPAC policy conference this year attracted more than 13000 individuals, including over 2000 students from nearly 500 campuses - altogether a most impressive achievement. What was less than impressive was President Obama’s speech. President Obama was obviously trying to woo Jewish voters and their attendant campaign contributions by making what was clearly an election year speech. Sunday’s speech was also full of pandering and platitudes.
Had President Obama been sincere about his “devotion” to Israel, he would have, at some point in his presidency, made a visit to Israel. His only trip to Israel was during the 2008 election campaign – another point in time when he was seeking Jewish votes. Many were surprised to note that once elected, he used the opportunity of a June 2009 trip to Cairo to also visit Saudi Arabia but not Israel. The speech he delivered in Cairo had a distinct pro-Arab and pro-Muslim flavor, and gave one the impression that Israel was created as a result of Holocaust guilt – guilt that should be borne by the Europeans and not the Arabs. His speech also made no mention of the two thousand year longing of the Jewish people to be restored to their biblical homeland. Earlier that year, in April, he had visited Turkey and made no stopover made in Israel.
Obama, in his Sunday morning (March 4, 2012) speech at AIPAC told the audience, “But as you examine my commitment to Israel’s security, you don’t just have to count on my words. You can look at my deeds, because over the last three years, as President of the U.S, I have kept my commitments to the State of Israel.” Yet the one commitment Prime Minister Netanyahu wanted from Obama - U.S. backing for Israeli action against Iran - he did not receive. It is clear that the Obama administration is refusing to act against Iran in advance of the threshold crossing by the Islamic Republic’s radical mullahs of nuclear capability, if indeed it has not been crossed it already. Iran’s Ahmadinejad assesses the situation in much the same way Hitler did that Obama, like Britain’s Chamberlain, will not resort to military action.
In articulating the risks a nuclear Iran would pose to the region, Obama told the polite AIPAC audience, “That is why, four years ago, I made a commitment to the American people, and said that we would use all elements of American power to pressure Iran and prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And that is what we have done.” Not really! The Iranians laughed at the naiveté of the American president who gave them time to produce enough nuclear material for several bombs. Moreover, instead of retaliating forcefully against Iran and its proxies for killing American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama famously declared on January 28, 2009 that “If countries like Iran are willing to unclench their fist, they will find an extended hand from us.”
President Obama received a standing ovation from the AIPAC audience when he said: “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment, I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Yet, on July 22, 2009, his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared that, “The U.S. would create a Middle East nuclear umbrella should Iran obtain a nuclear weapon.” In other words, the Obama administration is indeed willing to accept a nuclear Iran.
Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the AIPAC audience on Monday evening (March 5, 2012) and made it clear that Israel cannot and will not wait for Obama’s permission to act when Israel’s survival is at stake. However disguised and polite, many in the audience gleaned that Netanyahu has been pressured by Obama to refrain from action, and that Israel cannot accept Obama’s timetable with regard to Iran.
Obama’s failure to support the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran against the brutal regime of President Ahmadinejad and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei was a major policy failure and diplomatic disaster. Instead of supporting the pro-western opposition, Obama helped strengthen the regime. His statement that “Israel’s security is sacrosanct and non-negotiable” and that “my administration’s commitment to Israel’s security has been unprecedented” is questionable, especially in light of his $60B arms deal with Saudi Arabia and the $3.2B weapons sale to Egypt, which included the delivery of F-16’s.
President Obama made sure that members of the Muslim Brotherhood were invited to attend the speech he gave in Cairo, he “threw President Mubarak under the bus” – a partner who was anti-Muslim Brotherhood and, he is increasingly reliant on Turkey’s Islamist Prime Minister Erdogan, who he hopes will set things right in Syria by supporting the Muslim Brotherhood there – all of which highlights Obama’s failure to support democratic and secular opposition groups while he weakens Israel’s strategic and security interests in the region.
Reversing the Bush administration’s boycott of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) (based on its flagrant anti-Israel obsession), the Obama administration decided to rejoin the UNHRC in September 2009. President Obama stated that his aim is to have “closer cooperation with the U.N.” U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Esther Brimmer, however, in addressing the UNHRC “acknowledged that the U.S. human rights record is imperfect.”
And, more directly, it was President Obama who precipitated a crisis with Israel over construction in Jerusalem in March 2010. The Jerusalem Post reported that the Obama Administration “treatment of Netanyahu during his meeting with Obama created the impression of a deep crisis in relations. As Jackson Diehl wrote in the Washington Post, “The White House’s refusal to allow non-official photographers record the Obama-Netanyahu meeting, and the fact that no statement was issued afterwards, led to the impression that Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arm’s length.”
Obama’s obsession with Israeli construction in Jerusalem had the effect of stiffening Palestinian Authority chairman Abu Mazen’s (Mamoud Abbas) demands and rejecting negotiations with Israel.
In addition to isolating Israel and creating the perception that Israel is solely at fault, the President was caught speaking his mind about PM Netanyahu to French President Sarkozy during the November G20 Summit in Cannes when he thought the microphones were off. In response to Sarkozy saying, “Netanyahu, I can’t stand him. He’s a liar,” Obama responded, “You are sick of him, but I have to work with him every day.”
The disagreement between Obama and Netanyahu hinges on what they view as a priority. For President Obama it is up to Israel to devise a peace formula that the Palestinians can accept. Netanyahu, on the other hand, faces an existential threat from Iran and wants U.S. backing to eliminate Iran’s nuclear threat.
While the Obama administration has maintained strong security cooperation with Israel, its policy failures regarding Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, and Egypt, have created an image of weakness that can only encourage aggression on the part of Iran and its allies. President Obama’s platitudes delivered at the AIPAC conference cannot mask the failures of his administration in the Middle East. Nor can his pandering to a pro-Israel audience hide his contempt for Netanyahu, and his risky policy which is allowing Iran time to build nuclear bombs.