Who is a friend?
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Who is a friend?

Can one love Israel, observe kashrut and Shabbat, and still believe that Barack Obama will be a good president? Of course – and many people who fit this description do believe that.

Yet the majority of Orthodox Jews voted against Obama, and some, despite efforts to persuade them otherwise, continue to believe that the Democratic president-elect is no friend of the Jewish state.

What does it mean to be “a friend of Israel”? Does it mean to agree at all times with all her actions? To some, that is precisely what it means. But experience has shown that when American presidents take a laissez faire position, Israel is not better off.

According to Israeli journalist Gideon Levy, writing in Ha’aretz online (Nov. 9), “[O]utgoing U.S. President George W. Bush was someone like that. There is no other country where this man, who brought a string of disasters down upon his own nation and the world, would receive any degree of prestige and respect. Only in Israel.”

Back in the spring, Obama said, “My view is that the United States’ special relationship with Israel obligates us to be helpful to them in the search for credible partners with whom they can make peace, while also supporting Israel in defending itself against enemies sworn to its destruction.”

Nevertheless, said Levy, some groups in Israel remain wary – despite the president-elect’s recent appointment of Jewishly identified and former Israel Defense Forces volunteer Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff and his endorsement by friends of Israel such as Dennis Ross.

Why?

While most of us would agree that being a friend means being honest as well as supportive – pointing out the flaws in one’s position as well as the strengths of one’s arguments – Levy contends that those in Israel who continue to oppose Obama were hoping for “someone who will give Israel a carte blanche for any violent adventure it desires, for rejecting peace and for building in the territories.”

That’s somewhat of an exaggeration, but it does have a certain ring of truth.

Levy goes on to say he is hopeful that Obama “will reveal himself to be a true friend of Israel. That he will put his whole weight behind a deep American involvement in the Middle East … that he will push Israel and Syria to make peace, that he will spur Israel and the Palestinians to reach a settlement.”

Israel needs a little help from her friends – from all her friends.

Let us hope that Obama will indeed be a true friend of Israel, and that his presidency will usher in a time of true peace.

L.G.

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