June 5, 2012

Is Obama REALLY pro-Israel... Now? Now? Now?

Yet another Jewish group has met with President Obama, and again the messaging is focused on his record and commitment to Israel's security. This despite the fact that analysts and Israeli leaders agree -- publicly and privately -- that Obama has been an excellent champion for Israel's security, on all fronts.

By repeatedly reassuring ourselves that this President isn't planning to abandon Israel, American Jewish media and community leaders reinforce the basic insecurity of a large and vocal minority of Jews (and a majority of Israelis) -- if he really were pro-Israel, we wouldn't need to be reminded... Also, the fact that we need to keep hearing the President say it, and to report that he said it, sends an additional message to the world: All we want to hear is the recitation of the same old formula.

Before my career went local, I used to participate in very small and extended discussions with another world leader. He always included a Mideast advisor, and he always opened by discussing the latest developments regarding Israel. We would always thank him, and then switch the conversation to some other international concern. I came to understand that, of all the official Jews he got to meet, we were probably the only ones who weren't there to beat him over the head about Israel. We were happy to support his constructive relationship with Israel, but I also had an understanding with my Israeli colleagues, who are expert diplomats -- unless they specifically asked me to intervene on their behalf, I would leave it to them to represent Israel's interests. They did oblige me from time to time, and they seemed very pleased to have a Jewish group that did not see itself as Israel's first and last line of defense. After all, Israel is a sovereign state. And American Jews are not one-dimensional.

At the White House, as well, we should be able to cover Israel as needed, but focus on what we as Americans can be doing to help the President -- any President -- achieve his (and eventually, her) goals in the national interest. Unless there are well-founded fears as to his leanings and intentions, it may be best to avoid sowing further doubts by trumpeting the boiler-plate assurances.

We doth protest too much.

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