US-based NGO pushes message: Obama ‘not pro-Israel'

Campaign culminates with a full-page advertisement in Monday’s 'New York Times' telling Obama, “It’s Time To Stand With Israel.”

September 20, 2011 04:22
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama delivers statement

Obama making speech 311. (photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)

NEW YORK/BERLIN – The pro-Israel group Emergency Committee for Israel has mounted over the last two weeks a broad and assertive media campaign to draw attention to US President Barack Obama’s Israel policies, culminating with a full-page advertisement in Monday’s New York Times telling Obama, “It’s Time To Stand With Israel.”

ECI’s new round of advertisements coincides this week with a packed Israeli-Palestinian agenda at the United Nations, including visits from Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

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ECI appears to have timed its high-publicity advertisements in order to derail the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to secure recognition as the 194th member state at the UN, and to ratchet up pressure on the Obama administration to demonstrate robust support for the Jewish state.

Monday’s New York Times ad is accompanied by billboards at key transportation hub locations in midtown Manhattan stating “Telling Jews They Cannot Build in Jerusalem: Not Pro-Israel” and “Attacking Israel at the UN: Not Pro-Israel.”

The billboards feature a photograph of a smiling Obama shaking hands with Abbas, with a Palestinian flag in the background.

In an e-mail interview with The Jerusalem Post on Monday, Noah Pollak, the executive director of ECI, wrote: “The aim of the campaign is to focus the public’s attention on Obama’s record, which is not pro-Israel, and to offer some pretty clear metrics for people to judge his record going forward.”

He continued: “The White House still seems to think that people just don’t understand their policies; people do understand – the policies are terrible. This isn’t about messaging. Americans want the President to stop being ‘evenhanded’ in the Middle East and stand proudly with our democratic ally.”

The ECI’s advertisement in the Times outlines a five-point plan for the Obama administration. ECI recommends that Obama not single out Israel for criticism during his UN speech; declare Jerusalem to be Israel’s “undivided capital”; rebuke efforts to delegitimize Israel; and inform the PA that it will face a loss of US aid if Abbas moves forward with the statehood bid and efforts to unite with the terror group Hamas.

ECI’s plan also calls for Obama to visit Israel and implement the 2004 letter agreement between US President George W. Bush and former prime minister Ariel Sharon, rejecting the “right of return” of Palestinian refugees and a negating a withdrawal to the strict pre- 1967 lines.

Asked about the Times advertisement, Pollak said, “We want to encourage even more activism on this issue – we want the president to feel even more pressure to do the right thing, if that’s possible. But instead of just criticizing him, we thought it would be helpful to suggest a few pro- Israel policies that would be easy [and popular] for him to adopt.

“Voters know the difference between messaging and substance; it’s time for the White House to stop complaining that Obama’s poor handling of Israel is all a big misunderstanding, and start implementing genuinely pro-Israel policies,” Pollak added.

Pollak’s organization played a key role in last year’s congressional races by highlighting what ECI viewed as anti- Israel activity and voting records among Democratic candidates. ECI launched ads attacking Joe Sestak, a candidate for the Pennsylvania Senate in 2010, because he signed a letter to the president calling for the US government to pressure Israel to relax its restrictions on goods entering the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip.

Sestak suffered a defeat in the November election.

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