Saturday, December 5, 2009

Myth: Obama is bad for Israel. Not a chance.

"Setting the record straight: Obama deserves praise, not denigration, for commitment to Israel’s security," says Yitzhak Benhorin, YNET 's US correspondent, and

In "U.S.-Israeli Arms Cooperation Quietly Growing" (Forward, Dec. 25, 2009), Nathan Guttman reports that “behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing. Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge — an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency."

1. Yitzhak Benhorin, YNET:

Plenty of nonsense had been uttered in Israel in respect to the Obama Administration and its attitude to Israel. This was the case both in baseless articles and in statements attributed to close associations of Prime Minister Netanyahu in the wake of his first meetings with the American president. After the meeting in Washington in May, a senior official in the PM’s plane was said to have uttered a statement about the “idiot who speaks about a two-state solution.” Meanwhile, after the meeting at the sidelines of the UN general assembly in September we saw headlines claiming that Netanyahu was able to stare Obama down.

Foolish Remark

However, our Sports Minister, Limor Livnat, went further than ever. Foolish talk such as “we’ve stumbled upon a terrible administration” was never heard before, and American officials are asking why Obama deserves this.

The time has come to set the record straight and look into what exactly is being done by the current American president for the State of Israel’s sake. Ten months after he entered the White House, we can clearly say that Obama continues to safeguard of all the major interests pertaining to Israel’s security and welfare. He makes sure to maintain its qualitative advantage and preserves the intimate intelligence and security ties.

Israel continues to be at the top of the list of US aid recipients – about $3 billion annually in ongoing defense aid, and further aid beyond it aimed at developing special arms and mostly anti-missile defense systems, topped by the Arrow 3 project. The administration, which cut America’s defense budget, could have undermined its aid to the project and insisted on a US-made missile, yet it did not do it. A terrible president could have also ordered the removal of the American radar system from Israel. This radar can spot a moving baseball 2,000 kilometers away and is being operated by Americans.

Indeed, the current administration has been declaring in every opportunity its obligation to protect the State of Israel’s security, while backing up its words in practice.

President Obama promised Netanyahu to enter tactical and time-limited dialogue with Iran, and assess the move’s success by the end of the year. In practice, Obama is not even waiting for year’s end. At this time, the Americans are pressing on all diplomatic fronts in a bid to advance Iran sanctions. Obama also promised Netanyahu to shift to harsh sanctions and keep the military option on the table, despite pressure by leftist supporters in the US to stop talking about it.

Meanwhile, the president adopted significant steps vis-à-vis the Russians in order to enlist their support to the Iran cause, including a change in priorities in deploying American missiles. It is unclear whether annulling President Bush’s plan to deploy US missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic was made in the framework of a deal with Russia for the sake of the effort against Iran, yet in practice it appears that President Medvedev is cooperating with Obama on the Iranian front.

Part II Obama not the enemy: Current US Administration not free of mistakes, but far from being hostile to Israel, Yitzhak Benhorin, YNET

The Goldstone Report was and still is a grave problem for Israel. Yet from day one, the Obama Administration pointed to the report’s absurdity and made an effort to prevent a UN discussion on the matter. While the US failed on this front, it voted against the anti-Israel decision, engaged in diplomatic efforts to convince other states to object or abstain, and continues to operate behind the scenes in order to prevent the report from being brought before the Security Council. Should the report eventually get there, the US is expected to veto it.

Moreover, despite the importance of the UN in the Obama Administration’s view as part of its foreign policy, in all matters pertaining to Israel he proved that he can act against his own ideology. The Administration embarked on talks ahead of the so-called “Durban II” convention in Geneva, yet the moment the Americans realized they will be unable to prevent an anti-Israeli text, they quit the conference.

When it comes to the conflict with the Palestinians and with the Arabs in General, Obama continues to speak about Israel’s right to defend itself. In his UN speech he stressed that in the framework of implementing the two-state vision, Israel will be a Jewish state, with all this entails in respect to the refugees.

Meanwhile, in his Cairo speech, Obama was the first American president who in the heart of the Arab world spoke about the unbreakable bond between Israel and the US.

The Israeli public does not grasp the extent of Israel’s dependence on the US, and takes the security and intelligence cooperation for granted. But is there any other state that enjoys this kind of cooperation with the US? Is it possible that Limor Livnat is part of our government yet doesn’t know this?

All American Administrations since the Six-Day War, including George W. Bush’s Administration, objected to the settlements and endorsed the two-state solution. As opposed to previous governments, the Obama Administration is serious in its intention to advance this solution, which Israeli governments ranging from Sharon’s to Netanyahu’s current cabinet openly endorsed.

The Obama Administration’s great mistake was to turn the pressure on Israel in respect to a settlement freeze into a public issue. Several weeks passed in Washington before officials there realized the gravity of the mistake. Now, they aspire to get the sides to talk as soon as possible in order to first resolve the issue of borders, which will make the volatile debate over settlement construction irrelevant.

There is one more issue that needs to be figured out: The personal relationship between Obama and Netanyahu. It is quite clear that we lost the intimacy that Rabin had with Clinton and that Sharon and mostly Olmert had with George W. Bush. The latter two spoke twice a week on occasion, while today there are almost no phone conversations between the leaders.

It is unclear whether this is merely a personal issue, or whether it has to do with Obama’s character; he is not an emotional person, but rather, very methodical. Indeed, it appears that Obama does not develop personal relations with world leaders. Even during British PM Gordon Brown’s visit, headlines in London addressed the dissipation of the special relationship between the United Kingdom and the US.

The Obama Administration is not free of mistakes, yet it is far from being the hostile Administration that is being portrayed in Israel.

Help us help President Obama fight back and get the truth out to the American Jewish community and the wider American public.

2. In addition, Nathan Guttman reports in "U.S.-Israeli Arms Cooperation Quietly Growing," (Forward, Dec. 25, 2009) that “behind the scenes, strategic security relations between the two countries are flourishing.

"Israeli officials have been singing the praises of President Obama for his willingness to address their defense concerns and for actions taken by his administration to bolster Israel’s qualitative military edge — an edge eroded, according to Israel, during the final year of the George W. Bush presidency.

"Among the new initiatives taken by the administration, the Forward has learned, are adjustments in a massive arms deal the Bush administration made with Arab Gulf states in response to Israeli concerns. There have also been upgrades in U.S.-Israeli military cooperation on missile defense. And a deal is expected next year that will see one of the United States’ most advanced fighter jets go to Israel with some of America’s most sensitive new technology.”

Yitzhak Benhorin is Ynet’s correspondent in Washington,7340,L-3813307,00.html Published 12/1/09,7340,L-3813614,00.html