The Obama gut test

President Obama’s instinct about and commitment to Israel’s security should not be doubted.

Obama at Kotel 370 (photo credit: reuters)
Obama at Kotel 370
(photo credit: reuters)
For the majority of my adult life, I have been privileged to call Chicago my home. It is a beautiful city with a large and active Jewish community.
It is also where, several decades ago, many of my friends and I had the good fortune to know a lawyer who became a local community organizer and would, in fairly short time, become the most powerful man in the world.
I was introduced to Barack Obama through our mutual friend Newt Minow more than 20 years ago. Newt told me that Barack was brilliant, and when we were finally introduced, it was clear you had to be impressed. And since our first meeting, I have been privileged to be a firsthand witness to Barack’s growth from lawyer to community organizer, to state senator, to US senator, to president.
Over the years, others have challenged the president’s feelings towards Israel.
Their voices have become shrill during both of his presidential races. Four years ago, then-senator Obama was subject to unfounded attacks from Republicans attempting to prove that he was anti- Israel. In a desperate attempt to attract Jewish voters to the GOP, the presidential campaign of the Republican Party grossly exaggerated and distorted stories about Obama’s background. Their intention was to scare voters about his commitment to Israel were he to become president.
In response, I wrote a letter to my fellow Jewish leaders imploring them to understand that Barack had already passed the gut test. I explained that I had been sure that he was a strong friend of Israel ever since the day we met.
Again today, with elections near, the attacks on the president’s Israel record are on the rise. While governor Mitt Romney has made the economy the focal point of his campaign, his critiques of president Obama’s positions on Israel’s security have been wholly unwarranted. Under the theme of promising to do “the opposite” of Obama on Israel, Romney has attacked a president who has done more for Israel than any recent predecessor. Over the last three years he:
• Authorized $3 billion of foreign aid assistance in 2011 and $3.075b. in 2012.
• Added an additional $205 million to produce more Iron Domes missile defense systems in 2011 and an additional $70m. in 2012.
• Oversaw hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for the joint development and production of the Arrow and David’s Sling missile defense systems.
• Unconditionally backed the closest and most in-depth relationship between the US military and the IDF in history.
Recently, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “This administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”
President Shimon Peres also said during a recent meeting with Ambassador Dan Shapiro, “I consider the president of the United States, Barack Obama, as a friend of the Jewish people and of the State of Israel.”
• Opposed the inaccurate, unbalanced Goldstone Report, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, sided with Israel against the Gaza flotilla and thwarted Palestinian attempts to unilaterally declare statehood at the UN
• Said, “Get Israel whatever it needs. Now,” when Israel asked for help to fight the Mount Carmel fires.
• Said, “I will do everything I can,” when Binyamin Netanyahu called the president last September and asked for help to rescue the Israelis trapped in the Egyptian Embassy by what appeared to be a “lynch mob.” The president did everything he could and they were rescued.
• Continuously toughened the sanctions on Iran with the oral assurance that the United States will not allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons. He reinforced this view with the statement that containment of Iran is not an option for the United States.
And the list goes on. So it would be interesting to hear exactly what governor Romney would do that is “the opposite” of President Obama’s actions and how that would be to Israel’s benefit.
Perhaps the governor’s motives deserve more scrutiny, especially when he contends that the president has “thrown Israel under the bus.”
While support for Israel is, of course, only one of the criteria for president of the United States, he is exactly the pro- Israel president that I believed he would be when I gave him my support in 2008.
Equally, if not more important: President Obama’s actions with reference to Israel are in the best interests of the United States. President Obama’s instinct about and commitment to Israel’s security should not be doubted. He knows and understands the importance of Israel’s security and its right to defend itself. He has stood by his pro-Israel convictions, time and again, both domestically and on the international stage.
Ever since I met community organizer Barack Obama, I have never doubted his commitment to Israel’s safety and security. With the stakes as high as ever, President Obama’s record speaks for itself. When it comes to Israel, the president has proven where his heart lies and his absolutely firm commitment to a faithful ally – the State of Israel.Lester Crown is chairman of Henry Crown and Company and of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.