Do Israelis feel safer today than they did four years ago?
To listen to U.S. President Barack Obama tell it, Israel is enjoying an era of peace and security thanks to the unprecedented support — military, intelligence, and diplomatic — provided by his administration. At a fundraiser last year, the president humbly stated “I try not to pat myself too much on the back — but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration." Vice President Joe Biden says that Obama “has done more for Israel’s security than any president since Harry Truman.”
And yet Iran is closer than ever to acquiring nuclear weapons; a new Islamist government in Egypt openly questions its peace treaty with Israel; Syria has descended into chaos, its stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction potentially up for grabs to terrorists; the Palestinians have abandoned even the pretense of negotiations as they pursue unilateral attacks on Israel at the U.N.
For many American voters, Jews and non-Jews alike, the security of Israel is an important issue. More than that, the sense that Obama has been uniquely hostile to Israel among American presidents has made the issue a proxy for the broader foreign policy debate.
So the Obama administration elides these mounting threats to Israel, preferring instead to talk about the “crippling” sanctions imposed on Iran, the ongoing missile defense cooperation between the U.S. and Israel, and the administration’s opposition to Palestinian statehood at the U.N. The relationship may seem hostile on the surface, but we are assured the cooperating going on behind the scenes is unprecedented and that the president’s commitment to Israel is unshakable.
American voters are unconvinced.
Obama points to the sanctions his administration has imposed on Iran as a testament to his support for Israel. But behind closed doors, the administration has obstructed and watered down those sanctions at every turn. And when Congress passes the sanctions anyway, Obama has taken credit for them while granting broad exemptions enabling companies and entire countries to continue doing business with Iran. Members of Congress from both parties have complained loudly.
Obama claims credit for joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs, such as Iron Dome. Yet the establishment of the program and its annual funding were set up by the Bush administration in 2007. Obama has merely refrained from cutting or canceling the program.
And then there are Obama’s claims about the U.N. He insists that under his administration “the United States will stand up against efforts to single Israel out at the United Nations. As you know, that pledge has been kept."
In fact, Obama’s policy of “engagement” at the U.N. has seen the Jewish State increasingly isolated on the international stage. Upon taking office, Obama joined the odious Human Rights Council — the Bush administration boycotted it because of its obsessive focus on Israel — pledging to reform it from within. It remains as anti-Israel as ever.
And in the hours after Turkey’s 2010 flotilla attack, Netanyahu asked Obama to veto any condemnation of Israel at the U.N. Security Council. Obama refused. In 2011, the administration vetoed an anti-Israel Security Council resolution — but afterward, Susan Rice delivered perhaps the most aggressive tirade against Israel ever by an American at the U.N.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians continue to pursue unilateral statehood at the U.N., and the administration has never sought to deter them with anywhere near the vigor displayed in opposing, for example, Jewish housing construction in Jerusalem. As the centrist Washington Institute for Near East Policy reported this year, under Obama “Palestinian anti-Israeli or even anti-Semitic incitement incurs no real cost from the United States.”
These are the facts, and this is the case that Mitt Romney and his campaign are making to American voters. But there will be no such criticism of the Obama administration while Romney is in Israel. Romney will not come to make the case to Israeli voters that they are worse off for Obama’s four years in office. He will not bemoan Obama’s decision to make settlements the central issue of the Israeli-Arab conflict. Nor will he condemn Obama’s too little, too late approach to Iran’s nuclear program.
Instead, Israelis can expect to glimpse what might be, should Romney win in November. Romney will stand shoulder to shoulder with Netanyahu. There will be no icy glares, no demands, just genuine friendship and respect, and statements of support for the righteousness of the cause both Israeli and American voters seek to advance: a world where decent people can enjoy security and peace, and where terrorists, thugs, and bullies are held to account.
Michael Goldfarb is an American political writer who served as deputy director of communications for McCain-Palin '08. He is chairman of the Washington-based Center for American Freedom and vice president of Orion Strategies, a lobbying firm.