Tuesday September 23, 2014
Israel Hayom
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23.09.2014
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Uri Heitner

Israel has a friend in the White House

In one of their televised debates, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney competed over which of them was more friendly toward Israel. This refuted the myth of Israel's isolation and the myth that there is a rift with the U.S. over the issue of Jerusalem. Some people asserted that the candidates were only trying to woo Jewish voters and donors and were seeking to benefit from the mythical Jewish influence and some espoused fairy tales that were even more shameful than the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

Israel is not isolated. Israel's political situation is much better than it is portrayed by the country's media. This was demonstrated during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent trip to France, where France's Socialist President François Hollande went out of his way to greet Israel's leader with open arms. Hollande is not facing an election and French Jews are not considered to be a powerful interest group.

The alliance between the U.S. and Israel is rock solid and both major American political parties are committed to it. This alliance is a major strategic asset for Israel. The strength of the alliance does not mean, however, that the two countries agree on every issue. For example, on the issue of borders, every American government since the 1967 Six-Day War has demanded that Israel withdraw to the 1949 borders, with minor modifications. The one exception to this was George W. Bush, who, in a letter to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on the eve of Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip, wrote that it would be unrealistic for Israel to give up major settlement blocs.

Israel's alliance with the U.S. has remained strong and has survived a number of serious crises. The most serious disputes actually occurred with Republican administrations (those of Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush). Those disputes dwarfed any of the disagreements there have been with the Obama administration.

Just as the myth that Israel is politically isolated is unfounded, so is the myth that Obama is a hostile and Islamist president who loves the Muslim Brotherhood. Obama made many mistakes at the start of his first term. With the naive belief that he could repair the rift between the U.S. and the Muslim world, he adopted conciliatory policies, even toward Iran. Much to his credit, however, he learned from his failures and did not stick to those policies. (The killing of Osama bin Laden was a symbol of Obama's active fight against radical Islam.)

Obama made a rookie mistake by pushing Israel into a settlement construction freeze. This allowed the Palestinians to climb a tree from which they have still not come down. But Obama himself no longer holds that position.

Another Obama mistake was his naive faith in the Arab Spring and his belief that Hosni Mubarak's dictatorship in Egypt would be replaced by secular democratic forces.

Obama has been and remains committed to the alliance with Israel. He has increased aid and strengthened security cooperation between the two countries. He has led the campaign to thwart unilateral Palestinian efforts at the U.N. and gave a thoroughly Zionist speech at the U.N. General Assembly in 2011. He has brought the free world to impose significant sanctions on Iran for the first time — sanctions that could be effective and eliminate the need for military action — and he has pledged to thwart Iran's nuclear program.

Netanyahu erred by unnecessarily confronting the Obama administration over red lines on Iran during the presidential election campaign, but the prime minister regained his composure and calmed the situation. The fear that Obama will take revenge on Netanyahu and harm Israel over this is childish. National interests are much more significant than personal anger. Differences may rise again in the future between the two countries, but the strong alliance and friendship will endure.

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