Right of Reply: Why the doubters are wrong about Obama

Obama has taken clear and decisive steps since day one to enhance the administration’s relationship with the Jewish community.

October 29, 2010 16:22
4 minute read.
Barack Obama at DCCC in Providence

Barack Obama with David Cicilline 311 AP. (photo credit: AP)

Edward Klein and Richard Chesnoff, two well-respected journalists, have unfortunately decided to misrepresent the facts about President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israel and the American Jewish community in their recent magazine feature. The pair has taken to recycling myths and using questionable polling data in their essay on the supposed “[The] Jewish problem with Obama” (October 15).

We have seen repeatedly since before Obama took office all of the baseless right-wing smears intended to undermine the actual work that he and his administration are doing. In the age of social media and e-mail, these myths have spread like wildfire across the Internet.

Perhaps if Klein and Chesnoff had been following National Jewish Democratic Council on Facebook and Twitter, they would have seen the overwhelming wave of materials that reflect the truth about the Obama administration.

NONETHELESS, HERE are the facts: Obama has taken clear and decisive steps since day one to enhance the administration’s relationship with the Jewish community. To name just a few of the things he has done, Obama has made the Pessah Seder an annual White House tradition; he has held frank and honest discussions with Jewish leaders on the heels of each Rosh Hashana since taking office; and the Obama family hosted the “first-ever” reception celebrating the contributions of Jewish Americans to all facets of our society. Leading administration officials have been engaged in an ongoing dialogue with the Jewish community – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, senior adviser to the president David Axelrod addressed the NJDC, National Security Adviser James Jones delivered remarks to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Vice President Joe Biden is set to give remarks before the General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America next month. But these exchanges of course barely scratch the surface.

And when it comes to Israel, Obama has demonstrated an unshakeable commitment to preserving the US-Israel relationship and ensuring Israel’s security. Obama requested and received $2.8 billion for directly assisting Israel’s security – the largest amount in US history specifically allocated for its security apparatus. Obama noted, “My administration has provided more security assistance to Israel than any administration in history. And we’ve got greater security cooperation between our two countries than at any time in our history. And the single most important threat to Israel – Iran, and its potential possession of a nuclear weapon – has been my No. 1 foreign policy priority over the course of the last 18 months.”

The president’s determination to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran has been crystal clear. Under his leadership, the UN, the US, the European Union, Australia and others have imposed harsh sanctions. As Israel’s Ambassador to the US Michael Oren stated about the president, “He’s had a very robust position on Iran. Again, I don’t think people understand fully just how determined he is to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.”

Oren added, “Over the course of this year, you saw no daylight between our governments” vis-à-vis Iran.

OBAMA IS also clearly determined to broker a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority while ensuring Israel’s security. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu recently said that he “trust[s] Barack Obama, president of the United States, to carry out with me the policies that have joined Israel and the United States. And what Barack Obama has called the ‘unbreakable bond.’ We have common goals, common interests. And we now have a job to do to get on with our common goal of achieving peace with security. I trust we’ll be able to do that together.”

During recent remarks at the UN, Obama left no doubt of his unwavering commitment to create peace while also defending Israel’s legitimacy, saying forcefully, “It should be clear to all that efforts to chip away at Israel’s legitimacy will only be met by the unshakeable opposition of the United States.”

Obama hasn’t just said he’s committed to Israel and the Jewish community, he’s taken real, undisputable action. Perhaps that’s why a recent Gallup poll found American Jews have remained consistently more supportive of him than Americans in general – and by the same margin since the day he was elected.

Klein and Chesnoff can continue to repeat debunked myths (the supposed dinner snub, “blood and treasure” and “the joke” figure prominently in their writing), cite questionable polling data and join in the chorus of voices baffled by Jewish liberalism. But the fact is that American Jews have not bought into the smears being thrown at Obama, and they are staying with the Democratic Party. Why? Because the Democratic Party remains the natural home for Jewish values – plain and simple.

The writer is president and CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council (www.njdc.org).

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