By Josh Marks
Once again Mitt Romney and the Republicans are dividing instead of uniting. This time the issue is Israel. The dustup involves the Democrats reinstating Jerusalem as Israel’s capital as part of the Democratic National Convention 2012 platform at the personal request of President Obama after the 2008 language was unfortunately removed. The Republicans are exploiting the afternoon scene in front of a half-empty arena in which there are some boos that can be heard after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa asked for a voice vote to amend the platform and it passed.
The National Jewish Democratic Council pointed out the hypocrisy of GOP criticism considering that their 2012 platform omits similar language that was in their 2008 platform, which referred to Jerusalem as the undivided capital of Israel and supported moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Make no mistake, Romney and the Republicans are cynically trying to turn Jewish voters against President Obama by using Israel as a wedge issue. Playing political football with America’s strongest ally is irresponsible and just plain wrong. Israel has traditionally enjoyed strong bipartisan support. Conservatives and liberals, Democrats and Republicans, have always agreed on the special historical relationship between the United States and Israel and the shared values of the two democratic countries.
Sure there are disagreements on policy issues and the best way to achieve peace, but neither party would dare question their opponent’s commitment to Israeli security. That is until Romney and the Republicans began spreading lies about President Obama’s actual record regarding the Jewish State. Now Romney is trying to score cheap political points by saying the Democrats “threw Israel under the bus.”
This is personal for me as a progressive Jewish-American and a Zionist who has visited Israel four times and is deeply concerned about the safety and security of the Israeli people. I know firsthand how vulnerable Israelis feel living in a tiny sliver of land surrounded by enemies sworn to its destruction. Last summer I worked on a kibbutz in the south near Beersheba and two rockets fired by terrorists from Gaza landed less than four miles from me. And the day before I was supposed to travel by bus from Mitzpe Ramon to Eilat, the same bus route was ambushed in a cross-border terrorist attack from Egypt, killing eight and injuring 33 innocent Israelis.
I have also been to Poland and walked through the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka. Six million Jews were systematically murdered on European soil and six million Jews live in Israel, so when the Iranian regime threatens Israel’s existence and is working towards building nuclear weapons, it is taken very seriously by the Israeli population and the nation’s leaders.
So when the Jewish people and Israel have real enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas who not only talk about killing Israelis, but follow it up with murderous action, I would think Romney and the Republicans would choose their words a bit more carefully when talking about the American president’s stance on Israel.
And by the way, Israel’s values are more closely aligned with the Democrats. Israel has universal healthcare, gay rights, women’s rights, a diverse population including 1.2 million Arabs and Jews from around the world, religious freedom and protection of Muslim, Christian, Jewish and other religious holy sites. And the modern state of Israel was founded by secular European Jewish socialists. That’s right, socialist Zionists made the desert bloom, working the land, and creating collective agricultural communities called kibbutzim. While Israel has transitioned more towards capitalism, the socialist roots are evident in its government-run healthcare system and generous social services.
Does Israel have problems? Of course. What country doesn’t? There were the social justice protests last summer over the high cost of living and lack of affordable housing. And of course the Israel-Palestinian conflict is as complicated and intractable as it has ever been. But it certainly can be argued that Israeli values more closely align with the Democratic Party in terms of the social safety net and caring for all its citizens.
Here are the facts for the most pro-Israel president since Harry Truman — Barack Obama. The following is a fact sheet put out by the National Jewish Democratic Council. Please spread this around to as many people as you can. The truth about Obama’s pro-Israel record must be told to counter the Republican lies. Click here and here for more facts on President Obama and Israel. And here is the NJDC fact sheet pasted to this post:
Throughout his presidency, President Barack Obama has made strengthening the U.S.-Israel relationship a top foreign policy priority. His work to strengthen that relationship places him among Israel’s strongest supporters ever; the facts, with citations, follow below.
”We stand with Israel as a Jewish democratic state because we know that Israel is born of firmly held values that we, as Americans, share: a culture committed to justice, a land that welcomes the weary, a people devoted to tikkun olam…. So America’s commitment … and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakeable. It is unshakeable…. I am proud to say that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours. None. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. It is a fact.” [Obama, December 16, 2011)
Obama provided Israel with the largest amount of American military aid in U.S. history, including:
* Over $3 billion per year to assist Israel’s military to ensure it has the latest and most efficient technologies and weapons available; and
* $275 million in supplemental funding to develop the Iron Dome missile system, praised by Israel’s defense leaders for its “exceptional” success at saving the lives of Israelis who live under threat from Hamas’ rockets.
* Additional funding for the Arrow and David’s Sling missile systems, bringing the total funding for missile defense to $650 million—double the amount spent by the Bush Administration.
Obama restored Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge (QME) with advanced weaponry by:
* Signing the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Act;
* Selling Israel bunker busting bombs and F-35 fighter planes while fast-tracking arms sales;
* Committing American troops to the 2009 Juniper Cobra and 2012 Austere Challenge joint military exercises—the largest and most extensive exercises ever with Israel;
* Authorizing Israel to use American weapons stored in Israel during an emergency; and
* Working with Israel to combat smuggling into Gaza.
Obama’s diplomatic support for Israel is unparalleled. Obama:
* Forcefully opposed the Palestinians’ attempt to unilaterally declare a state;
* Rallied the world against a nuclear-armed Iran and continues to lead the sanctions effort by example;
* Voted with Israel 100% of the time at the United Nations, a first in modern history;
* Defended Israel’s legitimacy on the world stage, and vocally protested efforts to isolate Israel at the United Nations and in UN bodies;
* Consistently affirmed the U.S.-Israel bond; and
* Asserted Israel’s right to self-defense repeatedly—including against the Gaza flotilla.
Obama personally came to Israel’s aid immediately when it needed it most. Obama:
* Answered Israel’s “3am phone call” and personally intervened to rescue Israel’s diplomats in Cairo; and
* Personally ordered that Israel receive “whatever it need[ed]” to put out the Carmel fire.
Israeli Leaders on President Obama
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
“Americans know that Israel and the United States share common values, that we defend common interests, that we face common enemies. … We are you, and you are us. We’re together.” [March 5, 2012]
“I think that standing your ground, taking this position of principle… I think this is a badge of honor and I want to thank you for wearing that badge of honor.” [September 22, 2011]
“I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I asked for his help. … He said, ‘I will do everything I can.’ And so he did. … We owe him a special measure of gratitude.” [September 10, 2011]
“I trust Barack Obama, President of the United States to carry out with me the policies that have joined Israel and the United States.” [July 7, 2010]
President Shimon Peres:
“Mr. President, I know your commitment to Israel is deep and profound. Under your leadership, security cooperation between the US and Israel has reached its highest level. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a friend in the White House.” [March 4, 2012]
“Thank you America for being our friend and our ally. And thank you President Barack Obama, for your leadership, for your deep and moving ongoing and unwavering commitment to the peace and security of our land.” [June 30, 2011]
Defense Minister and former Prime Minister Ehud Barak:
“I should tell you honestly that this Administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.” [July 30, 2012]
“The unshakable bonds between Israel and America and their respective defense establishments under the guiding hand of President Barack Obama are stronger and deeper than ever and we are very thankful and appreciative of that.” [December 16, 2011]
“Our countries are good friends. And I’m the minister of defense, I can tell you… I can hardly remember a better period of support, American support and backing and cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now.” [August 3, 2011]
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon:
“I can tell you in a very categoric way I believe also in an authoritative way that we have not had a better friend than President Obama and we will continue to work together because not only it’s our ideal it’s also our interests … cooperation has never been better while issues which are of the most sensitive and of most importance to our collective security and wellbeing.” [August 28, 2011]
Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren:
“We see things very much eye-to-eye on how to move forward. … The President’s speech here at the General Assembly was quite strong in his support for Israel in its security needs, in its sympathy for the Israeli people and the situation they find themselves in the Middle East and I think the most important thing was the strong emphasis placed on the connection between the Jewish people of Israel and the Land of Israel.” [September 26, 2011]
And here is the full text of the 2012 Democratic plank regarding Israel:
The Middle East. President Obama and the Democratic Party maintain an unshakable commitment to Israel’s security. A strong and secure Israel is vital to the United States not simply because we share strategic interests, but also because we share common values. For this reason, despite budgetary constraints, the President has worked with Congress to increase security assistance to Israel every single year since taking office, providing nearly $10 billion in the past three years. The administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region. And we have deepened defense cooperation—including funding the Iron Dome system—to help Israel address its most pressing threats, including the growing danger posed by rockets and missiles emanating from the Gaza Strip, Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. The President’s consistent support for Israel’s right to defend itself and his steadfast opposition to any attempt to delegitimize Israel on the world stage are further evidence of our enduring commitment to Israel’s security.
It is precisely because of this commitment that President Obama and the Democratic Party seek peace between Israelis and Palestinians. A just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, producing two states for two peoples, would contribute to regional stability and help sustain Israel’s identity as a Jewish and democratic state. At the same time, the President has made clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel’s security concerns are met. President Obama will continue to press Arab states to reach out to Israel. We will continue to support Israel’s peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, which have been pillars of peace and stability in the region for many years. And even as the President and the Democratic Party continue to encourage all parties to be resolute in the pursuit of peace, we will insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to existing agreements.
Elsewhere in the region, President Obama is committed to maintaining robust security cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council states and our other partners aimed at deterring aggression, checking Iran’s destabilizing activities, ensuring the free flow of commerce essential to the global economy, and building a regional security architecture to counter terrorism, proliferation, ballistic missiles, piracy, and other common threats. Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel. The parties have agreed that Jerusalem is a matter for final status negotiations. It should remain an undivided city accessible to people of all faiths.