Today is Purim, one of the most joyful festivals on the Jewish calendar, when we
celebrate the deliverance of our ancestors from a Persian plot to annihilate
It is a day rife with ritual, from the reading of the Book of
Esther to the giving of charity and the delivery of food parcels to
But of all the many practices that have come to embody the
holiday, few are as inspired as the donning of costumes by young and old
For on Purim we disguise ourselves, masquerading as something that
we are not, underlining the extent to which many of us spend our lives
play-acting rather than being true to what we believe.
Indeed, the custom
has become so popular that none other than Barack Obama himself decided to join
in the fun this year, posing for the past few days as a staunchly pro-Israel
Obama’s Purim costume was as adept as it was inspired. After
all, it did not require a wig, eye-liner or even baggy pants.
was necessary was for the president to pad his AIPAC speech with some soothing
words about Iran and refrain from growling before the cameras when he greeted
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House.
Like any good
costume, Obama’s had the intended effect, initially making one forget the real
At the AIPAC Conference in Washington, the US president
spoke of the “unbreakable bonds” and “partnership” between the United States and
Israel, insisting that his administration’s “commitment to Israel’s security has
He even talked tough to the ayatollahs, warning
that, “Iran’s leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of
containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
And as I have made clear time and again during the course of my presidency, I
will not hesitate to use force when it is necessary to defend the United States
and its interests.”
For the uninitiated, it was almost enough to make one
swoon. Obama invoked all the right themes, pledging to stand by the Jewish state
and strongly hinting that he would not shy away from the use of force against
Gee, doesn’t he sound like someone we can really trust? But when
you start to peer behind the mask, and look beneath the surface, a different and
more accurate picture quickly begins to emerge.
Take, for example, his
assertion that “Because of our efforts, Iran is under greater pressure than ever
Why, it was just three months ago that Obama was trying to
convince Congress to soften sanctions on Iran. As Reuters reported on December
6, 2011, Obama administration officials lobbied against a bipartisan Senate
proposal to slap penalties on foreign financial institutions doing business with
Iran’s Central Bank.
Obama’s obstructionism on the issue was so brazen it
even led Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, a cosponsor of the bill, to slam
the administration in remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations
So for the president now to take credit for the tightening
economic vise around the Iranian regime is both disingenuous and
Similarly, Obama has repeatedly asserted of late that Israel
has the sovereign right to defend itself. He told AIPAC attendees that, “Israel
must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any
And yet, in practice, he has been energetically trying to
prevent Israel from doing just that. Last month, Obama reportedly sent his
National Security Adviser, Tom Donilon, to Jerusalem to deliver a stern message
to the Israeli government: don’t attack Iran.
And he has marched out a
parade of senior officials in recent months to cast doubt on the efficacy of any
such action by Israel.
Barely 48 hours after speaking to AIPAC, Obama
adopted a different tone at a press conference held on Tuesday. Asked by a
reporter about Iran, the president said rather ominously that a premature
Israeli strike would have “consequences” for the United States.
not just an issue of Israeli interests, it is an issue of American interests,”
Obama said. “It is not just an issue of consequences for Israel if action is
taken prematurely, there are consequences for the United States as
At first glance, that may not sound all that menacing.
when the president of the United States issues such a warning, it is far more
than just an analytical remark. It suggests that should Iran retaliate against
the US because of any action taken by Israel, it is the Jewish state that can
and will be blamed.
And this is the guy who says he has “got our back”?
Obama is clearly in election mode, and he is looking to November with an eye on
the Jewish vote. Fearful of losing Jewish support in critical states such as
Florida, the president is now trying to position himself as an unqualified
backer of Israel.
But don’t let Obama’s Purim costume fool you. As we
know, a mask often reveals far more than it conceals.
And in this case,
what it cloaks is frightening indeed.