I frequently disagree with Rabbi Shmuely Boteach’s opinion articles in The Jewish Standard. The Talmud is full of differing opinions that together make the sounds of harmony in our tradition. However, not only do I disagree with the statements he made in his article entitled “Can Obama be trusted on Israel?” I think he is wrong. Worse, in his approach, Boteach could jeopardize the future of the Jewish homeland and its strongest ally.
The rabbi writes that President Barack Obama unequivocally “cannot be trusted on Israel.” Boteach then claims that while Obama might have had a “change of heart” when speaking at the United Nations, it more likely was a “calculated” move to win back the Jewish vote. His implication was that the speech lacked sincerity.
Boteach joins a long and uninformed list of people that claim that Obama has been a poor friend to Israel and is “not to be trusted.” As I noted, this is simply incorrect. Here is just a sampling of some indisputable facts to enlighten Boteach and those who agree with him on this. I offer these examples in no particular order of importance.
â€¢ Obama began his presidency by putting Middle East peace on the top of his foreign policy agenda. He did not wait until the waning days of his tenure to address the situation, as his predecessor had done.
â€¢ For the most recent fiscal year, Obama signed the largest foreign aid package in history (over $3.1 billion) to support Israel’s security needs.
â€¢ The Obama administration has stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel on issues regarding Iran and its illegal enrichment of uranium, and Iran’s quest to become a nuclear nation. Obama has signed sanctions to cripple this rogue regime, and has vowed to sign more should Iran not comply.
â€¢ The administration has been adamant and unwavering in its upset and subsequent veto of the condemning Goldstone Report in the United Nations, a stand which was vindicated when the author of that report himself retracted most of its findings.
â€¢ The president declared, after the May 31, 2010, boarding of the Mari Marvara, that Israel has every right to defend itself and that it acted within international law. This stand also was eventually vindicated, this time by an official United Nations report on the incident.
â€¢ The United States used its veto in the U.N. Security Council to thwart a resolution damning Israel for its settlement activity.
â€¢ The Obama administration recently paid for and installed successive batteries of the Iron Dome missile shield to protect citizens in southern Israel. The price tag for this program was over $300 million and was in addition to the aid approved for the fiscal year.
â€¢ The Obama administration recently approved the sale of “bunker-buster-bombs” to Israel. Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, refused to sell Israel such bombs during his presidency.
â€¢ Finally, Obama gave perhaps the most pro-Israel speech of any president in the history of the U.N. Just three weeks ago, he reiterated his continued support for a Palestinian state that would be demilitarized – a view similar to that of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his previous three predecessors. Furthermore, Obama has vowed to use a veto in the Security Council any unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.
These are all irrefutable and undeniable facts. This hardly seems to be the resume of a man who “cannot be trusted on Israel,” or a person who does not value our strongest ally in the Middle East.
I am not a self-appointed advocate of the Obama 2012 campaign. Rather, when someone spews facts and data that are wrong, on either side of the ledger, we have a moral responsibility to speak up and speak out. To not do so would be devoid of values, a trait I hold dear.
What Shmuely Boteach does feed into (unconsciously, I believe) is perhaps the most dangerous thing we can offer Israel: to make supporting it a partisan issue.
Rep. Eric Cantor, the Virginia Republican who is both a champion for Israel and a great American leader, regularly makes the rounds with Steny Hoyer, his Democratic, congressional counterpart. Cantor, the House majority leader, and Hoyer, its minority whip, both proudly declare that they disagree with each other on countless issues, but they stand shoulder to shoulder on Israel.
For Boteach or anyone else to attempt to divide the electorate and demonize a particular political stripe as “anti-Israel” to garner votes for the opposition or, even worse, to gain attendance for a public event, is deplorable and extremely dangerous for Israel.
Woe to our Jewish homeland should we craft an ideology that espouses a particular political denomination as Israel’s real friend while questioning the commitnent on the other side. Israel’s security and welfare always has been – and must remain – a major concern on both sides of the politicasl aisle. That is the most important common denominator in our government.
If others on the right do not understand this, someone who bills himself as “America’s Rabbi” should.