by Daniel Halper
JINSA Visiting Fellow
In a speech earlier this month, President Barack Obama made a definitive declaration about his record in regard to Israel. "In fact, I am proud to say that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel's security than ours," he told the convention center crowd in Washington. "None. Don't let anybody else tell you otherwise. It is a fact."
The president's statement is verifiable. It regards what policies President Obama has supported since becoming president nearly three years ago.
Which, of course, includes the fact that it has been President Obama who has shifted the United States' strategy to place pressure on Israel for the failure of the peace talks instead of trying to bring both sides to the table. And that it has been Obama administration officials who have blamed Israel for not getting "to the damn table," as Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta declared at the beginning of this month in Washington. (No administration official has been quoted using a curse word, for the record, to encourage the Palestinians themselves back to any sort of table.)
It was President Obama who only last month seemed to agree with Nicolas Sarkozy when the French president told him, "I cannot bear [Israeli prime minister Benjamin] Netanyahu, he's a liar." President Obama responded: "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him every day!" (There are no reports that similar language was used to describe the Palestinian leadership by either of the two worlds leaders.)
It has been President Obama's Israel policy to blame the several hundred thousand Jews living in what would be a Palestinian state - a small percentage of the several million Palestinians - as the obstacle to peace in Israel. "America does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements," President Obama announced in his first speech at the United Nations, one of the international bodies that has been worst for Israel, without explaining why Jews would not be allowed to live in a Palestinian state. He received enormous applause. (For the record, over a million Palestinians are Israeli citizens living in undisputed Israel.)
The White House did, after all, wipe all references to "Jerusalem, Israel" from its website, preferring not to say that Jerusalem is in Israel until a final status agreement is worked out between the two sides. And it is the president's State Department that is currently hoping the Supreme Court upholds its policy of not allowing those who are born in Jerusalem to say on official documents that they are born in Israel.
It has also been Obama administration policy to call for a return to the 1967 borders for Israel and a future Palestinian state. "Those negotiations will not happen-and their terms will not be set-through speeches, or in the streets, or in the media," Democratic Senate majority leader Harry Reid said, slamming the president's policy. "No one should set premature parameters about borders, about building or about anything else."
And what President Obama did not tell those who were listening to his speech is that his own ambassador to Belgium seems to believe that Israel itself is to blame for Muslim anti-Semitism-instead of the actual anti-Semites. (The ambassador does not appear to have been reprimanded for expressing his outlandish views in his official capacity.)
So has this administration done more for Israel's security, as the president insists, than any of its predecessors? That would hardly seem to be a question.
In fact, President Obama's own policies have provided less help for the state of Israel than what Congress has done since President Obama even made that statement.
Last week, for instance, Congress passed "into law the highest levels of funding for the joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs in our history," as one Democratic congressman put it. The New Jersey Democrat added: "[T]he U.S. will invest $235.7 million for essential joint U.S.-Israel missile defense programs for the coming year." And, mindful of "America's significant budget challenges," he noted, "It is a mark of the importance of these jointly developed missile defense programs ... that they were all so robustly funded."
Additionally, by the way, Congress just approved funding "assistance to Israel at $3.075 billion, consistent with a 2007 memorandum of understanding that averages such aid at $3 billion annually over 10 years," according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA).
Likewise, in the same week, Congress also agreed upon American funding for Palestinians. But while an exact amount was not yet determined, important terms and conditions were: "the president must submit specific [funding] requests [for Palestinians] to appropriators in both Houses, allowing Congress greater leverage over how the money is spent," the JTA also reported. Also, in that same bill, "the Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington" will be shutdown "should the Palestinians continue to seek unilateral statehood recognition."
President Obama is correct to suggest that America is pro-Israel. But the evidence would suggest that is despite the president of the United States, not because of him. And all thanks to Congress, both Democrats and Republicans alike.
Daniel Halper, JINSA Visiting Fellow, is deputy online editor at The Weekly Standard.