For the majority of my adult life, I have been privileged to call Chicago my
home. It is a beautiful city with a large and active Jewish community.
is also where, several decades ago, many of my friends and I had the good
fortune to know a lawyer who became a local community organizer and would, in
fairly short time, become the most powerful man in the world.
introduced to Barack Obama through our mutual friend Newt Minow more than 20
years ago. Newt told me that Barack was brilliant, and when we were finally
introduced, it was clear you had to be impressed. And since our first meeting, I
have been privileged to be a firsthand witness to Barack’s growth from lawyer to
community organizer, to state senator, to US senator, to president.
the years, others have challenged the president’s feelings towards
Their voices have become shrill during both of his presidential
races. Four years ago, then-senator Obama was subject to unfounded attacks from
Republicans attempting to prove that he was anti- Israel. In a desperate attempt
to attract Jewish voters to the GOP, the presidential campaign of the Republican
Party grossly exaggerated and distorted stories about Obama’s background. Their
intention was to scare voters about his commitment to Israel were he to become
In response, I wrote a letter to my fellow Jewish leaders
imploring them to understand that Barack had already passed the gut test. I
explained that I had been sure that he was a strong friend of Israel ever since
the day we met.
Again today, with elections near, the attacks on the
president’s Israel record are on the rise. While governor Mitt Romney has made
the economy the focal point of his campaign, his critiques of president Obama’s
positions on Israel’s security have been wholly unwarranted. Under the theme of
promising to do “the opposite” of Obama on Israel, Romney has attacked a
president who has done more for Israel than any recent predecessor. Over the
last three years he:
• Authorized $3 billion of foreign aid assistance in 2011
and $3.075b. in 2012.
• Added an additional $205 million to produce more
Iron Domes missile defense systems in 2011 and an additional $70m. in
• Oversaw hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the joint
development and production of the Arrow and David’s Sling missile defense
• Unconditionally backed the closest and most in-depth
relationship between the US military and the IDF in history.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “This administration under President Obama is
doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the
President Shimon Peres also said during a recent meeting with
Ambassador Dan Shapiro, “I consider the president of the United States, Barack
Obama, as a friend of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel.”
Opposed the inaccurate, unbalanced Goldstone Report, boycotted Durban II and
Durban III, sided with Israel against the Gaza flotilla and thwarted Palestinian
attempts to unilaterally declare statehood at the UN
• Said, “Get Israel
whatever it needs. Now,” when Israel asked for help to fight the Mount
• Said, “I will do everything I can,” when Binyamin
Netanyahu called the president last September and asked for help to rescue the
Israelis trapped in the Egyptian Embassy by what appeared to be a “lynch mob.”
The president did everything he could and they were rescued.
Continuously toughened the sanctions on Iran with the oral assurance that the
United States will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. He reinforced this
view with the statement that containment of Iran is not an option for the United
And the list goes on. So it would be interesting to hear exactly
what governor Romney would do that is “the opposite” of President Obama’s
actions and how that would be to Israel’s benefit.
Perhaps the governor’s
motives deserve more scrutiny, especially when he contends that the president
has “thrown Israel under the bus.”
While support for Israel is, of
course, only one of the criteria for president of the United States, he is
exactly the pro- Israel president that I believed he would be when I gave him my
support in 2008.
Equally, if not more important: President Obama’s
actions with reference to Israel are in the best interests of the United States.
President Obama’s instinct about and commitment to Israel’s security should not
be doubted. He knows and understands the importance of Israel’s security and its
right to defend itself. He has stood by his pro-Israel convictions, time and
again, both domestically and on the international stage.
Ever since I met
community organizer Barack Obama, I have never doubted his commitment to
Israel’s safety and security. With the stakes as high as ever, President Obama’s
record speaks for itself. When it comes to Israel, the president has proven
where his heart lies and his absolutely firm commitment to a faithful ally – the
State of Israel.
Lester Crown is chairman of Henry Crown and Company and
of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.