President Barack Obama addressed a Jewish group last Friday as part of Jewish American Heritage Month. Adas Israel, a Conservative congregation located in Northwest Washington, D.C. became the sanctuary for only the fourth presidential address in a synagogue in American history.
The President told the packed sanctuary “it is precisely because I care so deeply about the State of Israel – precisely, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have expectations for the United States of America – that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland.”
It didn’t take much reading between the lines to understand that the Chief Executive was referring to his strained relationship with Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Also, Obama finds himself in a difficult disagreement with the many Jews and non-Jews who hold elected office on Capitol Hill who disagree with his efforts to sign a treaty with Iran, which would lift U.S.-led economic sanctions in return for a delay in Iran’s nuclear production.
He said that he and Netanyahu still disagree over the best way to keep military grade nuclear material away from Iran. His comment to the Adas audience, “I will not accept a bad deal” when referring to nuclear talks with Iran.
But then the Iranian subject, which is for Israel THE subject was curtailed in the speech. Next Obama chastised Israel because in his view, it didn’t fit the values he admires most about the Jewish State. Obama referred to the 1967 Six-Day War, the irrigation of the desert and then came the Palestinians.
“And to a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating. The example of Israel and its values was inspiring,” Obama said.
“So when I hear some people say that disagreements over policy belie a general lack of support of Israel, I must object, and I object forcefully. For us to paper over difficult questions, particularly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about settlement policy, that’s not a true measure of friendship.”
And this is where our President lost me. There was nothing in this speech holding the Palestinians accountable in large part for their own demise. “Paper over?” What gets papered over is that Palestinians aren’t exactly basking in the help and aid from other Arab nations. What is papered over is that tunnels were constructed from Gaza into Israel with materials that were supposed to be used for infrastructure. What gets papered over is that when Israel forced its citizens living in Gaza to leave, the best that Hamas could do with the seaside land was turn into a veritable launching pad.
I’m sorry, but didn’t I read somewhere that rockets were fired this week from Gaza once again in the southern part of Israel? Was that part of some sort of Palestinian peaceful gesture?
The Palestinians are seeking unilateral methods to receive recognition from the Pope and other nations around the world. Yet, Israel, the nation that the Palestinians need at the bargaining table doesn’t have a seat at the table.
Yes, Mr. President there is plenty that has to be done by both Israel and the Palestinians to achieve a lasting peace. But to come in to even a liberal synagogue, whose membership most probably gave you a majority of their vote, don’t leave us with the model that today’s Israel is different from the Israel you grew up.
Mr. President, Israel is all you and this nation really have in the Middle East. If it is threatened, this nation is threatened. Do you think that ISIS or Hamas has its deadly eyes only on Israel? Your chastisement belongs somewhere else and about someone else.
I suggest the President schedule an appearance at a synagogue affiliated with the Rabbinic Council of America or the Orthodox Union. I can only assume that he doesn’t, because the “choir” he’d be preaching to would find his message sorely off key.
By Phil Jacobs