Thirty-eight billion thank yous

Among complaints over lost ground on Israel’s qualitative military edge over its Arab neighbors during the end of the Bush presidency, the Obama administration quickly saw that the problem was fixed immediately.

By URI PILICHOWSKI
September 19, 2016 00:37
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama. (photo credit: REUTERS)

 
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It has been seven challenging years for the US-Israel relationship. From President Barack Obama’s declared goal to create daylight between America and Israel to the disastrous Iran deal, it seems that things couldn’t possibly get worse between our two great countries. Just as we think it can’t get any worse, it actually does. Over and over.

The latest episode is over $400 million given to Iran in cash coincidentally on the same day as four American hostages are released by Iran.

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With the media highly critical of President Obama and calling the payment ransom for the hostages, the president shifted into defense mode over the entire Iran deal, claiming, “The Israeli military and security community acknowledges this has been a game changer... the country that was most opposed to the deal.” In response the Israeli government shined large amounts of sunshine between Israel and the president. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel’s position “remains unchanged.”

The Defense Ministry went even further, comparing the Iran deal to the 1938 Munich agreement.

And yet, while it seems easy for the pro-Israel community to demonize the president, a careful review of the past seven years proves that in fact, it isn’t so simple. Over the past seven years Obama has signed off on more than $3 billion of military aid above and beyond the Memorandum of Understanding prime minister Ehud Olmert signed with president Bush covering the years 2008 to 2018. Some of this funding came in emergency Iron Dome funding in response to Israeli needs following a barrage of rocket attacks from Hamas in Gaza.

This was in contrast to the Pentagon’s stingy response under the Bush administration; it saw the Iron Dome as doomed to fail. Bush’s assistant secretary of defense responsible for overseeing the Iron Dome review process said that the Iron Dome “is something that cannot be done.”

Among complaints over lost ground on Israel’s qualitative military edge over its Arab neighbors during the end of the Bush presidency, the Obama administration quickly saw that the problem was fixed immediately. This expediency even earned the praise of Obama critic and former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren, who said, “We came to the Obama administration and said, ‘Listen, we have a problem here,’ [and] the administration’s reaction was immediate: ‘We are going to address this issue, we are going to make sure that we maintain your QME [qualitative military edge].”



In both the United Nations and in military cooperation between the two countries, the Obama administration has increased the partnership between the two countries.

Obama is the only president to have a 100 percent voting record on Israel in the United Nations. Obama has instructed that his ambassadors vote against resolutions in the General Assembly condemning Israel, and had them cast the only “no” votes on five anti-Israel measures last year in the Human Rights Council.

Obama’s diplomats worked to ensure that the General Assembly held its first-ever session on anti-Semitism.

Most importantly, it was Obama who prevented the Palestinians from unilaterally declaring an independent state.

This essay isn’t designed to write a positive or negative review of the Obama administration’s approach to Israel.

As president Bush said about his presidency, “History will ultimately judge the decisions that were made...

and I’m just not going to be around to see the final verdict.”

Today it seems that the only acceptable discourse on politics is in black and white.

This shouldn’t be the way we discuss issues. This is a world of color and a world of hues.

One must recognize each color on its own. Gratitude must be shown for the favor one is shown and effectively change circumstances when things don’t go the way one desires.

For this reason the pro-Israel community must show genuine gratitude to Obama and his administration for the recently signed MoU. In committing to over $38b. in military aid for Israel, Obama has signed the single largest pledge of bilateral military assistance in US history and advanced Israel’s security needs for the next decade. I am grateful for all that President Obama has done to make Israel a safer country.

The author is a rabbi at Yeshivat Migdal Hatorah in Modi’in and teaches Israel political advocacy to teenagers throughout America

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