By Jake Baum
For the Mitzpeh
(Photo Credit: Wikipedia via Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
“It would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly – not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper.”
Who said this? While the Republican Party would have you believe that it is the only party of Israel, it was actually President Barack Obama who made this assertion in his speech to Adas Israel Congregation in May 2015. In this speech, he expressed his staunch opposition to the growing sentiments of anti-Semitism throughout the world, recognized the many antagonists that Israel has had to face since its inception in 1948, and, most importantly, asserted his unwavering support for Israel and the religious history and connection behind the nation.
2016 is upon us, and as the U.S. is about to elect its new president, Americans Jews must look back on the actions of Democrats and Republicans alike, especially the past two terms of President Obama.
Any objective observer would tell you that Obama has been a steadfast supporter of Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. He has constantly and consistently stood by the nation over the past eight years and has only served to strengthen the U.S.-Israeli relationship, despite Republican claims to the contrary.
In politics, many say it’s all about the money. While Republicans might claim that Obama has turned away from our democratic ally in the East, the money tells a very different story. Just this September, President Obama signed an agreement with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the largest military package to Israel in U.S. history — $38 billion over 10 years — even bypassing Congress in the process. It was Obama, not the Republican-controlled Congress, that wrote up and signed this historic deal of support to the Jewish state.
Additionally, the famed Iron Dome – the Israeli-designed missile defense mechanism – was an Obama project as well, coming from additional defense funding completely separate from the aid package.
But money isn’t everything, right? Which is why, beyond the funding, Obama has asserted his support for Israel’s sovereignty on the international stage. In fact, when it comes to the U.N., Obama’s delegation has actually been the most pro-Israel of past administrations since 1948. The U.S. delegation to the U.N. under Obama has not voted in favor of a single Security Council resolution that has been critical of Israel since he was sworn in in 2008, which cannot be said for administrations of the past.
Additionally, one of the hallmarks of the Obama administration was the famous Iran Deal. While Republicans love to criticize this deal, citing excessive trust in the Iranian political administration, the facts remain that the deal is working (perhaps even better than expected). Iran has been forced to sell 98 percent of its enriched uranium and get rid of two-thirds of its centrifuges, while slowly integrating back into the world economy, ensuring a better life for Iranian citizens who have been crushed by these necessary sanctions.
As a last resort, critics of the Obama administration have claimed that he is anti-Israel simply because he also acknowledges the Palestinians’ religious connection to the land of Israel. This pathetic assertion makes an issue that is normally a gray area more black and white. The Republican mindset is essentially to reject all Palestinian religious and historical claims, otherwise to be deemed an anti-Israel president. This “us-versus-them” mentality should have been left in the past, yet we are still making assertions of absolute good and evil that got us involved in Middle Eastern conflicts in the first place, and characterized the Bush post-9/11 era.
The reality is, as in most conflicts, both sides have some merits and some faults, and acknowledgment of that fact is what made Obama a better supporter of Israel. The type of absolute thinking that drives the Israel-above-reason type thinking, opposition to the Iran Deal, and the anti-Obama movement are all mindsets that should be left in the past. After almost eight years of the Obama administration’s foreign policy, Israel is still here, and it’s becoming more clear that this is thanks to his administration’s actions, rather than despite them, that Israel has come this far.
Jake is a senior international business major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.