"Our iron-clad commitment to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history." -- President Barack Obama
This 19 word sentence contained within the 6992 word State of the Union address, President Barack Obama practically singled out Israel as if to highlight to his Jewish supporters and detractors alike, that he is the best friend the Jews have had. Other nations, or nation's capitals were mentioned as allies, but only Israel was assured such an "Iron-clad commitment".
For all the accolades and loud cheers in the House Chamber, however, the words that the President chose were quite careful and maybe even telling. Unlike Europe and Asia, which he called America's "oldest alliances," and the "Americas", with which he said our ties "are deeper," America, he said, is committed to Israel's security. We accept that and know it, and have seen the "closest military cooperation between" Israel and the United States in history take shape in the iron-clad Iron Dome mobile missile defense system that the U.S. has helped build in Israel.
The President's security and military assurances might imply a harsh acceptance of the present and future. Is it easier to arm a nation and prepare it for a battle than it is to resolve the root cause of the threat in the first place? Not to make a perfect comparison, but when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani saw some of New York City's more dangerous neighborhoods, he did not put guns in the hands of the decent people living there, but eliminated the dangers, locked up the criminals and took the streets back. The same strategies are being deployed in cities like Newark, Compton and others across the country, where law enforcement and public leaders seek to eradicate crime and eliminate the root causes of the danger.
Of course crime is not the same as ideology, and the issues that affect dangerous cities and those that drive the forces in the Middle East are not the same, but the essence of the argument is no different.
Sure Israel needs better weaponry for the time being, as she needs to have a strong deterrent for her enemies, but wouldn't the prudent course be to help clean up the neighborhood rather than, or in the case, along with, arming the decent people who are stuck in the middle. Israel is indeed in the middle of a world of nations seeking to destroy it and President Obama acknowledged that as a fact. The policies of placating and equating the "struggles" are detrimental.
The right thing to do is for the President to call the issues as they are and boldly condemn those who would seek to harm Israel. He should pound the point of the unyielding cries within the "governments" of Hamas and Hezbollah to destroy Israel. He should decry the hypocritical comments by people like Maen Areikat, the PLO "Ambassador" to the United States who said Jews would not be allowed in the Palestinian State, while Palestinians demand access to all of Israel. He should acknowledge that the divide separating Jews and Muslims in the Middle East is not about land, but about a true and deep seeded belief among many in positions of influence that the God of Islam wants his adherents to stamp out the Jews and erase all traces of Israel. Only then can we begin to discuss the terms of any "peace," and try to find land agreements that would keep the distance sufficiently.
Instead, this President and his administration have chosen to ignore the true cause of the problems in the region; the ideological hatred that will not be negotiated away. In his third State of the Union the President declared that "a wave of change has washed across the Middle East and North Africa, from Tunis to Cairo; from Sana'a to Tripoli," but left out the inconvenient truth that the fundamental Islamists are winning the hearts and minds of the people and miring those lands deeper into trends of intolerance, violence and hatred. Liberty is not coming; tyranny is rising, and that will not bode well for Israel or the United States.
On May 19th, 2011, President Obama said that "the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines." This sentiment is nothing new; those words have been spoken by many before - Jews and Israelis alike. However, it seemed to have belied what many thought the President had learned to appreciate -- the need for defensible borders.
Four month later, when he stood before the U.N. General Assembly on September 21, he said,
Let us be honest with ourselves: Israel is surrounded by neighbors that have waged repeated wars against it. Israel's citizens have been killed by rockets fired at their houses and suicide bombs on their buses. Israel's children come of age knowing that throughout the region, other children are taught to hate them. Israel, a small country of less than eight million people, look out at a world where leaders of much larger nations threaten to wipe it off of the map. The Jewish people carry the burden of centuries of exile and persecution, and fresh memories of knowing that six million people were killed simply because of who they are. Those are facts. They cannot be denied.
Then in November, the administration was so harsh with Israel over building in Jerusalem and the West Bank, it was as if the President's words to the U.N. - only two months prior- were delivered to placate Jews after the May 19th debacle.
As soon as the pressure was off, he went back to the old routine of chastising the Jews and making moral equivalences to the plights of the two peoples living alongside each other. One people are the start-up nation who built a burgeoning society that has contributed so much knowledge and value to the world, and the other is a people hell-bent seeing the former destroyed.
The President, in his speech, devoted most of his attention to the economy, jobs, taxes and government reform and he spent very little time on foreign affairs. That's actually a good thing. Yet, in that small allotment of time, he gave Israel a shout-out and emphasized how the U.S. cares for her security. For his supporters, they will say that proves what a friend he is, but a real friend cares enough to help make sure that the use of the war machines are the very last resort.
Juda Engelmayer is an executive with the NY PR agency, 5W Public Relations