Reality Check: A true friend

A true friend will act exactly the way US President Obama has acted toward Israel throughout his presidency.

March 11, 2012 22:45
4 minute read.
Netanyahu and Obama in Washington

Netanyahu and Obama in Washington . (photo credit: Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)


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At the risk of sounding like a teenage magazine agony aunt, here’s my definition of a true friend: A true friend is someone who will always look out for you, will protect your best interests and, when the situation demands it, tell you straight to your face a truth you might not particularly want to hear.

In other words, a true friend will act exactly the way US President Barack Obama has acted toward Israel throughout his entire presidency.

Let’s take a look at the facts. In terms of hard cash, Obama sent Israel the largest-ever amount of security assistance funding in 2010 ($2.775 billion) and raised that to $3 billion for 2011. Particularly importantly, under Obama’s direction, the US Congress authorized an additional $205 million for the Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, designed to stop missiles from Hamas and Hezbollah.

But of course, a true friendship is not based on financial gifts. We expect a friend to put themselves out for us when we’re in trouble and to pick up the phone when we desperately need help. Obama has done both, countless times, over the course of his presidency.

When an Egyptian mob was storming the Israeli embassy in Cairo at the beginning of the revolution there, it was Obama who picked up Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s phone call and made sure the Egyptian authorities rescued the trapped embassy team.

As Netanyahu said at the time: “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. This attests to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.”

In the United Nations, America under Obama’s leadership has come to Israel’s diplomatic rescue time and time again. Obama sided with Jerusalem in opposing Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s attempt to achieve international recognition for Palestinian statehood at the UN, telling the United Nations General Assembly that: “Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations.”

Again, a grateful Netanyahu issued a statement of support for the president: “I want to thank you, Mr. President, for standing with Israel and supporting peace through direct negotiations.”

And it hasn’t been just words at the UN. Despite strong international pressure, Obama used the first Security Council veto of his administration to block a resolution condemning Israel for settlement construction – making the US the only country on the 15- member Security Council not to support the resolution.

The US also boycotted the 2009 United Nation’s conference on racism (Durban II) due to concerns of anti- Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment and rejected the Goldstone report on Operation Cast Lead as “unbalanced, one-sided and basically unacceptable.” After Turkey barred Israel from participating in an October 2009 NATO exercise to protest the Gaza operation, the United States pulled out of the drill, resulting in its indefinite postponement. Soon afterward, US troops joined Israel for their largest-ever joint military exercises in missile defense.

Today, Israel’s alliance with the US is viewed exclusively through the prism of Iran, and here again, Obama is acting a true friend should. He has offered Israel American support, saying the US “has Israel’s back.” He has also insisted that should sanctions against Tehran fail, he will order the US military to destroy Iran’s nuclear program.

In fact, you can’t get any clearer or more decisive than Obama has been on the Iranian issue. What irks Obama’s right-wing critics (who, let’s be honest, have such a deep-rooted antipathy toward him they will never give him any credit, not even for succeeding where George W. Bush failed and killing Osama bin-Laden) is the fact that Obama is not prepared to encourage Israel to rush, gung-ho, into war.

Obama sees a nuclear Iran as unacceptable. As he told The Atlantic: “The dangers of an Iran getting nuclear weapons that then leads to a free-for-all in the Middle East is something that I think would be very dangerous for the world,” and he promised that “when the United States says it is unacceptable for Iran to have a nuclear weapon, we mean what we say.”

But Obama believes that a premature Israeli attack would only serve to aid Iran. “At a time when there is not a lot of sympathy for Iran and its only real ally, [Syria,] is on the ropes, do we want a distraction in which suddenly Iran can portray itself as a victim?” Obama is right here, and as a true friend of Israel, he is acting correctly in telling us this. We should learn to listen to our friends.

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

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