Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided –
Barack Obama to AIPAC, June 4, 2008
Well the issue of it being undivided... I
said immediately after the speech that that word [“undivided”] was poorly chosen
– Barack Obama on ABC, July 23, 2008
There should not be a shred of doubt by
now... I have Israel’s back – Barack Obama to AIPAC, March 4, 2012
Israel’s back] was not a military doctrine that we were laying out for any
particular military action.... What it means is that, historically, we have
always cooperated with Israel... just like we do with Great Britain, just like
we do with Japan – Barack Obama, at the White House, March 4, 2012
accounts – mine included – Barack Obama gave a sterling performance on Monday in
the third debate with Mitt Romney. Attempts by Republican pundits, like the
usually perceptive Charles Krauthammer, to declare a Romney victory, were
Only the most biased observer could deny that
Obama’s performance was significantly superior to that of his rival.
about oratory skills
But the upcoming US elections are not – or at least, should
not be – about which of the two candidates has the superior rhetorical
At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the November elections
are pivotal for the US and its allies. Their results have ramifications that
could irreversibly determine the fate of America for decades. These elections
may well prove to be a point of singularity for the Union, marking a historical
discontinuity that distinguishes whatever preceded it as being qualitatively
different from whatever succeeds it.
It is not merely a choice between
rival candidates, or between competing political parties, vying for 48 months of
power and prestige.
This time, the choice is far more profound and
far-reaching. It is in essence a choice between two incompatible and divergent
ideological envelopes, which demarcate essential core concepts that, in the most
elemental manner, reflect opposing points of departure as to the conduct of life
in America and relations with its allies.
It is a difference that
impinges on how the national interest is defined and pursued – at home and
abroad – and how national policy – both domestic and foreign – is formulated,
not in terms of the operational details but as to the underlying philosophy and
It is this conceptual cleavage and a comprehension of its
consequences, not the personal likability of the candidates or past party
allegiances, that should determine voter-choice at the polls.
In last week’s column, I focused on domestic socioeconomic policy. I
argued that – quite apart from the question of Israel – the overwhelming, and
seemingly automatic, support that the US Jewish community gives the Democratic
candidate is today inconsistent with its values and incompatible with its
This week, I turn my attention to what is at stake in the
November elections in terms of foreign policy, with special emphasis on
But before broaching this topic, it is necessary to
grasp how the elemental cleavage between opposing perspectives on domestic
politics feeds into a parallel divide between similarly opposing worldviews on
international politics and the nature of relationships between
So please bear with me through this somewhat detailed
digression. The core differential between the two approaches is that while one
prioritizes energetic wealth-creation, the other prioritizes equitable
The inevitable consequence of this is divergent
perspectives regarding the ranking of societal values.
In the former
approach, the dominant value would be “freedom” – even if that means creating
some inequities; in the latter, the dominant value would be “fairness” – even if
that means curtailing some liberties.
Given the flaws and the frailties
of human nature, these divergent priorities inevitably result in differences in
emphases, attitudes, outlooks and beliefs: On the one hand, we have an approach
that emphasizes the promotion of enterprise, on the other, one that emphasizes
the provision of entitlements; an attitude that fosters respect for success and
achievement, as opposed to one that foments resentment toward them; an outlook
that incentivizes industry versus one that induces indolence; a belief that
encourages self-reliance and individual responsibility counter-posed against one
that engenders dependency and societal scapegoating.
Men standing in
Unsurprisingly, these divergent philosophies tend to generate divergent
policy preferences – the one oriented toward the (re)generation of wealth; the
other toward the (re)allocation thereof.
Of course, the principal means
by which to effect reallocation of wealth is taxation, but it is hardly one
likely to achieve its regeneration.
As Winston Churchill remarked wryly:
“...for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a
bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.”
Of course, some
level of taxation is imperative to generate wealth-creating/ facilitating
infrastructures, maintain national defense, preserve law and order, sustain a
certain level of social welfare services and so on. But when raised above a
certain level, taxation begins to drive off wealth-producing talents/resources
to more fiscally benign locations, making tax increases on dwindling fiscal
sources increasingly self-defeating.
Whether this level has been reached
in the US is a matter of contention, but with 70 percent of federal taxes being
paid by 10% of the income-earners, a compelling case could be made that it has.
And while a seemingly plausible claim could be made that it would be “fair” to
increase taxes on the wealthy, this would be far more likely to be “socially
cosmetic” than substantially remedial in terms of deficit
After all, higher tax rates do not necessarily bring higher
tax revenues. They may well achieve the opposite.
Success as a sin
does all this relate to the question of foreign policy and Obama’s attitude to
Israel? The same mindset that sanctifies egalitarianism in domestic affairs has
its counterpart in international affairs. The same strains of resentment and
envy, suspicion of others’ achievement, the belief that the success of some was
necessarily the product of exploitation pervades much of the anti-colonial,
anti-American – and yes, anti-Zionist – philosophy of many members of the
One does not have to accept unquestioningly all the
claims of Indian-born Dinesh D’Souza’s book The Roots of Obama’s Rage, which
formed the basis of the hugely popular documentary 2016: Obama’s America to
concede that it is more than plausible that these sentiments played a
significant role in molding Obama’s political credo.
Indeed, it is
difficult to see how anyone other than the willfully blind or the woefully
biased could deny that in the formative environment in which that credo
coalesced, many of the influences, and many of the personalities/organizations
to which he owes allegiance, at least partially, were sharply divergent from –
some might say, antithetical to – the ethos that made America,
Only the overly naive or the excessively partisan could believe
that these inputs would not color Obama’s political instincts and policy
preferences; and consequently that the current administration does not perceive
US national interests – and how they should be pursued – as being fundamentally
different from the way they have been perceived by almost all its
Disturbing ‘political body language’
Whatever one might
believe regarding Obama’s true origins and faith, he is undeniably the most
Islamophilic president ever to occupy the White House, who somehow sees that a
“[Constitution-compliant] America and a [Shari’a-compliant] Islam...overlap,
and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and
the dignity of all human beings” (Cairo, 2009).
His strong pro-Islamic
predilections have manifested themselves in a myriad of gestures – both symbolic
and verbal – which collectively might be dubbed telltale “political body
To name but a few, these include:
• Obama’s highly
“imaginative” and exaggerated portrayal of Islam’s role in US history: “I
know...that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”
insistence on allotting the Muslim Brotherhood seats of honor at his flagship
outreach speech at Cairo University, to the chagrin of his hosts.
deep – some would say obsequious – bow to the Saudi king, guardian of
• The “sanitizing” of FBI and Department of Homeland Security
counter-terror manuals of any references to Islam-related terms in defining the
nature of the threat facing the US and its citizens from the forces of radical
• The seemingly cozy relationship with, and the frequent access
to, the White House that associates of the Muslim Brotherhood have been afforded
by the administration.
This is but a partial list of a long series of
words and deeds that reflect an unprecedented affinity for Islam by a US
It is easy to dismiss the political significance of each of
these individual items. It would, however, be most imprudent – indeed
unreasonable – to dismiss them all as totally un-indicative of the president’s
true political predilections.
Backtracking and broken pledges
this backdrop of Islamophilic sentiment, the naked antipathy displayed by Obama
and several of his senior administration officials toward Israel and its prime
minister are all the more troubling. The numerous incidents of insults,
humiliations and public reprimands have been well-documented by others and I
will spare the reader their repetition here.
True, the Obama
administration has acted assertively and forcefully to preserve and promote
Israeli interests on a number of critical issues. These have included enhancing
military aid for Israel’s anti-missile program; exercising US veto power to
block a one-sided Security Council resolution condemning Israel on settlements;
and strongly supporting Israel at the UN to block the Palestinian unilateral bid
for statehood recognition. These steps are in no way trivial.
the more circumspect observer might suggest that this welcome conduct should not
be ascribed to any underlying pro-Israel sentiment but to growing concern over
the consequences of a Jewish voter backlash – particularly after the shock
Democrat defeat, for the first time in almost a century – in last year’s
elections in New York’s 9th Congressional District.
For a second-term
incumbent, this would no longer be a consideration of any
Likewise, recent professions of “unprecedented cooperation” by
senior Israeli officials should be viewed cautiously through the lens of
diplomatic protocol, political constraints and institutional inertia. Indeed,
even if true, there is no guarantee of their permanence.
For US Jews who
care about Israel, what should be a matter of deep concern is the unbearable
ease and breathtaking speed with which the president has broken pledges and
backtracked on promises on issues of crucial importance for Israel – as the
introductory excerpts illustrate.
Islam’s impressive gains
term in office, Islam has made massive gains.
The radical Shi’ite regime
in Tehran is four crucial years closer to a nuclear capability, yet he
steadfastly refuses to set out “red lines” to halt its progress, clinging to the
forlorn hope that somehow sanctions will induce the savage theocracy to comply
because of the suffering sanctions inflict on the general
Elsewhere, radical Sunnis are in ascendency across the
region, seizing power in some countries and vying strongly for it in others.
Soon Israel may find itself surrounded by Muslim Brotherhood-dominated regimes.
Obama does not seem to consider this a major geo-political threat to US
Sinai has become a virtually unencumbered launching pad for
Clearly a position of almost unprecedented peril is
emerging for Israel. True, Obama promised to back Israel if it was attacked. But
that pledge – even if honored – would be cold comfort if that attack were
A president unmoored
There is a distinct possibility that Israel
could face a second-term president who is fundamentally unmoored to America’s
Judeo-Christian heritage, a heritage, which, despite occasional periods of
tensions, was for decades the elemental underpinning of the relationship between
the two countries.
The prospect of a White House incumbent with an
inherent affinity for Israel’s adversaries and unshackled by considerations of
reelection is one that must be considered with the utmost seriousness. It is one
US Jews should weigh carefully before they cast their ballot.
Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the
Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.