‘Chutzpah” isn’t normally a word associated with straight-laced Mormons, but Mitt Romney’s assertion at last week’s Republican convention that President Barack Obama “has thrown allies like Israel under the bus” provides a new definition of this fruity Yiddish term.

Obama certainly didn’t throw the Israeli Embassy staffers in Cairo under the bus when a rampaging mob stormed the embassy building. As Egyptian officials refused to take Israeli calls, it was Obama himself who picked up the phone to Cairo and ensured the Israelis were rescued from the riot.

To quote a darling of the American Right, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu: “I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the United States Barack Obama. I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, ‘I will do everything I can.’ And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special measure of gratitude.”

In fact, Obama has come to Netanyahu’s rescue many times over the course of his presidency, always succeeding in pushing Israel’s prime minister out of the path of any runaway bus. At the United Nations, where Israel badly needs allies, Obama has time and time again stuck up for Israel.

The US president has consistently dashed Palestinian plans to achieve UN General Assembly recognition as a non-member state, forcibly arguing that “peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations.” Given the American president’s stance, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas reportedly won’t even bother raising this issue again when he addresses the General Assembly later this month.

Obama has also come to Israel’s support over the issue of settlements in the West Bank, despite longstanding opposition by all post-1967 American presidents, Republican and Democrat alike, to Israeli settlement activity. He cast the first UN Security Council veto of his presidency to block a resolution condemning Israel for settlement construction, making the US the only country on the 15-strong Security Council to vote against the resolution.

To quote another darling of the American Right, Ronald Reagan in 1982: “Further settlement activity is in no way necessary for the security of Israel and only diminishes the confidence of the Arabs that a final outcome can be freely and fairly negotiated.”

The disastrous post-Oslo boom in Israeli settlement activity in the West Bank, which did so much to erode Palestinian hopes for a viable, contiguous state, shows just how prescient Reagan was.

ONE WONDERS exactly what Romney would have done differently with regard to Israel had he been president these past four years. Move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem? Unlikely. If George W. Bush, the most pro-Israel Republican president in recent decades, consistently signed a president waiver on national security grounds to avoid complying with the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act, it’s hard to see Romney doing otherwise.

And with budget hawk Paul Ryan as his running mate, would Romney be as generous with military aid to Israel as Obama has been? On top of the annual $3 billion in defense assistance to Israel, Obama this summer approved an additional $70 million to help Israel expand production of the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system. In this extra aid package, Obama also provided additional training and exercise opportunities in the United States for Israeli air force pilots to compensate for Israel’s limited airspace.

These are hardly the actions of a man “pushing Israel under a bus.”

BUT THE LITMUS test of the Obama presidency with regard to Israel’s security is Iran. The recent International Atomic Energy Agency report on Iran’s nuclear project clearly shows that the Iranians are continuing full speed ahead with their plans to complete a deep-underground site for the production of nuclear fuel.

Obama has publicly pledged to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, telling the pro-Israel AIPAC lobby earlier this year that “all elements of American power” remain an option to stop Iran from becoming a nuclear power, including “a military effort to be prepared for any contingency.”

There is no reason to doubt the American president’s sincerity on this issue. A nuclear Iran would blow holes in any hopes for non-proliferation and would likely set off a new nuclear arms race in the Middle East, something no US leader would want to allow on his watch.

Unfortunately, the Iranians – and, it must be said, our own prime minister and defense minister – are not convinced of Obama’s determination on this issue, while the appearance of many world leaders in Tehran last week showed that the ayatollahs’ regime is far from being isolated from the international community.

President Obama must use the coming few months to ratchet up the sanctions and drive home the message to the Iranians that he means exactly what he says when he refers to the use of “all elements of American power” to stop the Iranian nuclear project. Obama has been right to attempt firstly to persuade the Iranians to desist through diplomatic, rather than military action, but should they fail to pay heed, the president must then follow through on his threats.

The writer is a former editor-in-chief of The Jerusalem Post.

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