Doing the right thing

Under President Barack Obama, the unbreakable US bond with Israel has not faltered.

By MEL LEVINE
March 21, 2012 21:52
4 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama 390 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Larry Downing)

 
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American voters will have a choice in November between two visions for our country. While we engage in this debate about who is best suited to lead our nation, we must remember that we live in a global community where we rise and fall together. Our leaders have a responsibility to do what is right, not for tomorrow’s headlines, but for what will best bring long-term stability across the globe. The Middle East, a region too often defined by its volatility, is best served by US leadership that chooses action over rhetoric, substance over frailty and responsibility over blame.

Our country’s commitment to Israel’s security stems from shared values of liberty, democracy and the freedom we here cherish so deeply. History has shown time and again that the United States has stood with Israel – under Democratic and Republican presidents – and under President Barack Obama, our unbreakable bond has not faltered. Amid the tumultuous conditions in the region, the president has stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Israel to ensure its Jewish, democratic state is protected.

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While it may be easy for the president’s political adversaries to twist his words, the real challenge for them is to find fault in his actions. Many people will try to push politically charged observations into the public discourse, but we must all remember that these distortions are not backed up by facts. The US-Israel relationship is too important to be diluted by partisan politics. The international community surely cannot afford it.

From providing unprecedented levels of security assistance, to standing up to the slanted Goldstone Report, President Obama has done what is necessary to ensure that no one questions Israel’s existence. Despite a difficult economic environment, our financial assistance has increased every year that President Obama has been in office. For example, in his 2013 proposed budget, President Obama is asking for $3.1 billion to make sure Israel keeps it qualitative military advantage.

Moreover, we’re investing in new capabilities and technology to preserve Israel’s security and provide it with the ability to defend itself against any threat. In providing $205 million to deploy the Iron Dome system alone, the United States has also made it clear we will not allow Israeli communities along the border with Gaza to be threatened by rockets. And we will continue to move forward because no citizen of the world should live in fear.

Today, we face a serious, legitimate threat from Iran. We cannot and will not solve this problem alone. Israel and the United States are united in the belief, which the president has made clear, that containment is not an option for dealing with an Iranian nuclear threat.

President Obama has imposed the toughest sanctions ever on Iran, and under the leadership of Ambassador Susan Rice at the United Nations, we rallied partners on the Security Council to join us in securing international sanctions against the dangerous Iranian regime. Today, Iran is cracking under the overwhelming amount of pressure we’ve put in place. Because of our efforts, we have slowed the Iranian nuclear program and punctured the Iranian economy this past year.

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Where we are today is a result of tough policies pursued by the Obama administration. Iran is isolated and its leadership is becoming increasingly divided. An isolated and weakened Iranian regime is a good thing for the United States, Israel and the international community. But let’s be clear: the mission is not complete. The international community has an important responsibility to try to resolve this challenge diplomatically.

Given its rash and irresponsible behavior, we cannot expect Iran to cave to our diplomatic expectations. At the AIPAC conference this month, the president reiterated his resolve on Iran: “I have said that when it comes to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, I will take no options off the table, and I mean what I say.” This administration has applied the necessary pressure to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and will continue to show the determination to keep Israel safe.

Sixty-four years ago, despite the objections of many, US president Harry Truman made the decision to heartedly embrace the state of Israel. Only minutes after the country declared independence, Truman said, “I had faith in Israel before it was established. I believe it has a glorious future before it – as not just another sovereign nation, but as an embodiment of the great ideals of our civilization.” He didn’t say it to win over voters or woo cautious supporters. He said it because it was the right thing to do.

More than half-a-century later, the basic idea behind Truman’s speech still rings true. Last September, President Obama stood before the United Nations General Assembly and reaffirmed our country’s commitment to Israel and its security concerns. He said that Israel must be recognized, and that our friendship is enduring and unshakable. Although there was little applause, it was also the right thing to do.

No previous American president has made such a clear statement about his support for Israel at the United Nations during such a tumultuous time. President Obama’s persistent message to all audiences, friendly or not, will not waver in order to score short-term political points. In the distracting race of who’s up and who’s down in Washington, the state of Israel should not be used as a political football. The road requires us to heed the responsibility of leadership, and we cannot afford to take any short-cuts along the way.

It’s simply the right thing to do.

The writer is a former Democratic member of the US House of Representatives from California.

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