President Barack Obama in the Situation Room (White House photo by Pete Souza)
The Israeli press is debating the significance of an article by the publisher of a Jewish magazine in Atlanta, Georgia, urging Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to consider sending Mossad hit men to assassinate President Barack Obama.
After Internet attention focused on this Jan. 13 piece, Andrew Adler, the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, apologized for what he had written, which listed as one of several options for Netanyahu: to "give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States' policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies."
Adler's two other options for Netanyahu were a pre-emptive strike against Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon, or an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities. But Adler made clear that he knew what he was suggesting in option three. He added: "Yes, you read 'three correctly.' Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel's existence."
Adler's extreme suggestion was roundly denounced by American Jewish leaders and Israeli media commentators. For instance, Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, decried Adler's words as "irresponsible and extremist," while taking note that Adler's ideas "reflect some of the extremist rhetoric that unfortunately exists -- even in some segments of our community -- that maliciously labels President Obama as an 'enemy of the Jewish people.'"
Chemi Shalev, a blogger for Israel's Haaretz newspaper, called comments like Adler's ...
"...the inevitable result of the inordinate volume of repugnant venom that some of Obama's political rivals, Jews and non-Jews included, have been spewing for the last three years.
"Anyone who has spent any time talking to some of the more vociferous detractors of Obama, Jewish or otherwise, has inevitably encountered those nasty nutters, and they are many, who still believe he is a Muslim, who are utterly convinced that he wants to destroy Israel."
Adler told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a wire service for Jewish newspapers in North America, that he regretted that he "made reference to it [assassination] at all."
Removing a President
Though Adler's remarks about employing what is sometimes called "executive action" to alter U.S. government policy toward Israel is surely outrageous, there has existed for several decades a more general perspective in some quarters that U.S. policy must move in accord with Israel's desires and that any action deemed "anti-Israel" must be made politically unacceptable.
U.S. neoconservatives, for instance, have argued that there should be no space between how Israel and the United States view security concerns in the Middle East. Many neocons favored invading Iraq in 2003 because it was a long-time enemy of Israel, and many now call for attacking Iran because Israeli leaders claim its potential acquisition of a nuclear weapon represents an "existential threat."
In Campaign 2012, leading Republican presidential candidates have denounced Obama for allowing even a slight separation to occur in America's shoulder-to-shoulder support for Israel. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has gone so far as to suggest that he would join Netanyahu in a full-scale invasion of Iran to achieve "regime change" if that was what the Israeli prime minister wanted.
And the notion of Israel participating in efforts to change American political leadership is not as far-fetched as it might seem. There is extensive evidence that Likud Prime Minister Menachem Begin intervened covertly more than three decades ago to undermine President Jimmy Carter's reelection hopes because Begin feared that Carter would push Israel into accepting a Palestinian state.
Despite strong evidence that Likud officials joined in Republican efforts in 1980 to stop Carter from gaining the release of 52 Americans then held hostage in Iran -- a failure that sank Carter's hopes for a second term -- Israeli supporters in the United States have heatedly disputed these allegations and have sought to demonize anyone who takes them seriously.
Yet, among those who give credence to the accusations are people who served in sensitive positions within the Israeli government, including former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. In 1993, I took part in an interview with Shamir in Tel Aviv during which he said he had read Gary Sick's 1991 book, October Surprise, which made the case for believing that the Republicans had intervened in the 1980 hostage negotiations to disrupt Carter's reelection.
With the topic raised, one interviewer asked, "What do you think? Was there an October Surprise?"
"Of course, it was," Shamir responded without hesitation. "It was." Later in the interview, Shamir, who succeeded Begin as prime minister in the 1980s, seemed to regret his frankness and tried to backpedal on his answer, but his confirmation remained a startling moment.