An Interesting Exchange About Obama
by Rabbi Elchonon Oberstein
Last year I wrote about Obama on Cross-Currents . I recently received an email from a friend, who wants me to publicly repudiate everything I wrote and admit that I was wrong. I am not as scared as some that Obama is selling Israel down the river. I do think he is pressuring Israel more strongly than Bush Jr. ,but so did other Presidents and Israel is still around. I share this with the lively experts of Cross- Currents. On matters such as these, we truly live up to the phrase in the Hagada “Kulanu chachamim,Kulanu nevonim…” (We are all wise, we are all insightful) What do you think?
Another day, another indication that your Messiah’s “strong support” of Israel isn’t quite what you were hoping for. To be quite honest, I find your silence on this matter quite disturbing and wholly inappropriate. You predicted last year that Obama would be a strong supporter of Israel. You had nothing, absolutely nothing to base it on and no evidence to back it up; now that the opposite seems clearer and clearer every day, all you can say is, “The jury is still out”.
It’s not right, it’s not intellectually honest and I’m sorry to say, it’s a little arrogant. A heartfelt apology is in order.
Since you asked, I will answer, but I make no claim to correctness. There have been numerous American governments which have opposed settler activity. The Bush — Baker administration was very vigorous in its efforts and Israel is still around and has built many more settlements. The previous Israeli government was for a two state solution. It is not anti-Israel for the US to have the same position as Kadima and Labor.
In reality, there is no possibility of a two state solution at this time, because the Arabs are too inept. They could have had a state a long time ago if they knew how to play the game, but they can’t say the right words and be on good behavior long enough. I do not see that changing, as it is part of their mentality.
There are crucial issues that require more cooperation between the US and the rest of the world, and it is in Israel’s interests that the US have better relationships with countries that surround Israel.
Sometimes, one says something but doesn’t actually do it and that has been true of all sides in this saga for many years. As one Israeli politician said, ” I know I promised, but I didn’t promise to keep my promise” (Levi Eshkol).
So, don’t sit Shiva for Israel. There is a lot going on under the radar and the security relationship has never been stronger. Israel is most probably sharing information and trading with Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries and a lot of what you hear if for the Arab Street. Israel is very strong and feared by its neighbors. It is not on the verge of destruction.
I find the loyalty of some of my colleagues to the Rush Limbaugh wing of the Republican Party ironic. We have to do what is in our long term interests. Being opposed to everything the President does and constantly looking for enemies is a sign of our insecurity and doesn’t help us influence policy.
Netanyahu will work out something where he says something but doesn’t do it and everybody will know that and not care. Meanwhile, we need a good President to save our country in this time of great peril on all sides, and I certainly hope that Obama is a good President, for the sake of humanity.
The main point is that the One Above runs the world.
P.S. There has been much parsing of the President’s lengthy speech in Cairo. If we had written it, we would not have said it exactly that way. He chose to emphasize the truth of the Holocaust in a region where denial is wide spread. He tried to move away from rehashing conflicting claims and move on to a new beginning. I do not think that there is anything sinister in the omission of Israel’s historic claim to Eretz Yisrael or his comparison of black slavery to Palestinian suffering. Keep in mind that every word was sifted and weighed by his advisors. I am not aware of all of the calculations involved.
Is Obama bad for Israel? The people who opposed him from day one certainly think so. I think that he is trying to capitalize on his tremendous charisma and world wide support to move along a process that, in his mind and by his own statements, it is not in the long term interests of Israel or of the civilized world to allow this to fester forever.
The simple truth is that the parameters of the final settlement are well known by all parties. The majority of the Israeli people would gladly agree to these parameters if they believed that it would result in real peace. What has held this up for many years is not Israeli willingness to make” painful concessions,” but the inability of the Arabs to get their act together. What leads anyone to believe that the Arabs are able to change?
In the meantime, the United States of America is Israel’s one true friend among the nations of the world and President Obama has clearly enunciated his strong commitment that compromises must be”two-sided”.
This week’s shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum demonstrates that Holocaust Denial is a pernicious pestilence. It makes it even more meaningful that our President stood before the Arab world and denounced those who would deny the Shoah. His words at Buchenwald were from the heart and deeply moving. This is a good man and he is our friend.
Rabbi Elchonon Oberstein lives in Baltimore and admits to being a Democrat. The only native of Montgomery, Alabama to ever become a rabbi, he admires such Presidents as Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson.
Comments to this contribution are shared with those to “Unpleasantly Right” by Rabbi Yaakov Menken, providing an opposing perspective.
You write, “there is no possibility of a two state solution at this time, because the Arabs are too inept.” You know that, and I know that, but the rest of the world doesn’t know that, despite the disastrous dress rehearsal of Gaza.
The human powers of rationalization, denial, and habit are very powerful, which this article demonstrates. Executives have to make decisions in the real world in real time, using the incomplete evidence at their disposal. Likewise, Jews, including the government of Israel, who have to make decisions that take Obama’s intentions into account, lack “100% complete” evidence. Still, we have much to guide us, and need to avoid wishful thinking.
There is a lot going on under the radar and the security relationship has never been stronger.
Is that something you can show evidence for, something you know (from sources that need to remain secret), or something you hope is true?
Rabbi Yaakov Menken: And from Israel? In Hillary Clinton’s words, “a stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions.”
Ori: Or else? The US could use the threat of an arms embargo to make Israel do practically anything. So far, US presidents said they were opposed to settlements and it stayed empty words. Is there evidence that Obama and Clinton are willing to do anything more than that?
Keep in mind that every word was sifted and weighed by his advisors. I am not aware of all of the calculations involved
WADR you are buying into the common misconception that many Jews suffer from.Jewish advisers have to show their even handedness as opposed to looking at the situation realistically.In all previous administrations the non-Jews were better than the Jews.Who was better Jeane Kirkpatrik and Al Haig or Henry Kissinger,Dennis Ross or Dan Kurtzer?
This administration is no different!
. The majority of the Israeli people would gladly agree to these parameters if they believed that it would result in real peace. What has held this up for many years is not Israeli willingness to make” painful concessions,” but the inability of the Arabs to get their act together
In terms of whose who in the Israeli government, it is largely an old boys (or girls) network comprised of the Ashkenazi elite.Their “Gaava” collectively prevents them from seeing what an unmitigated failure Oslo was on all levels.
The “Israeli Street” will not consider Shimon Peres waving 25 post dated letters condemning terrorism from Abbas or Assad to be progress in the so called Peace process.
“In reality, there is no possibility of a two state solution at this time, because the Arabs are too inept. They could have had a state a long time ago if they knew how to play the game, but they can’t say the right words and be on good behavior long enough. I do not see that changing, as it is part of their mentality.”
This is not ineptness. Their actions are very “ept” for what they want — destruction of Israel, and help from the international community on the way to that goal.
That is really the fundamental flaw in the whole peace process — the assumption that both sides want coexistence.
Rabbi Menken dismissed President Obama’s remark That’s why the first step toward peace has to be the cessation of terrorist attacks; otherwise Israel will of course do whatever is necessary to defend herself. America would do the same.” That sounds to me like a justification for Israel’s intervention in Gaza.”
Rabbi Menken accuses the Obama administration of charting “out an anti-Israel course without precedent in the last 50 years of US-Israel relations. One is reminded of the Eisenhower administration.” What about Bush 41 and James Baker? They were far worse.
We are back where we were before the election. The Republican sympathizers are saying “I told you so” and the Democrats are saying “It’s not as bad as you think.” Quite frankly, I’m surprised Rabbi Oberstein’s civilized reply to his correspondent. Anyone who would refer to the president as “your messiah” is going to find the facts to back his bias. And right now, so are we all.
“…Anyone who would refer to the president as “your messiah” is going to find the facts to back his bias.”
Here’s a relevant fact to consider:
Israel’s Channel One TV reported that Netanyahu was told Tuesday by an “American official” in Jerusalem that, “We are going to change the world. Please, don’t interfere.” The report said Netanyahu’s aides interpreted this as a “threat.”
Jews who backed Barack Hussein Obama (as he now likes to be called) based on his non-existent “strong support for Israel” bought into the “messiah image” that his campaign projected.
Bush 41 and James Baker were not “far worse”; they did pressure Israel but never said anything like the “American official” (George Mitchell) did or attempted to bring down a democratically elected government (see: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1243872317025&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull). They also never demanded, “A stop to settlements — not some settlements, not outposts, not natural-growth exceptions”.
So why be afraid if the Arabs don’t really want peace? Unfortunately, every time Israel is pressured to make concessions to an unwilling partner, Jews suffer and are killed, Lo Aleinu.
It’s no longer a question of political bias; unfortunately, it’s time to face reality and realize who our friends are – and who they’re not.
Let’s also not forget Harry Truman, for whom I have the greatest respect.
He bravely recognized Israel, going against his own State Department, minutes after it declared its independence.
That said, he still enforced an arms embargo against both sides. Israel was forced to go elsewhere, to countries like Czechoslovakia, for military supplies.
No other US president has gone into an Arab capital and very publically talked about the strong and unbreakable bond between Israel and US. In response to Yaakov Menken’s perception….I didn’t see the radical Islamists and Arabists dancing for joy….they were vilifying Obama, not praising him.
The settlement issue needs to be dealt with, plain and simple. One can quibble about what constitutes “natural growth”, but this is just a smoke screen for those who don’t want to move out of any settlements or outposts. Israel shouldn’t be encouraging this–they know it. The fact that Palestinians haven’t lived up to all of their obligations up until now is no excuse for the fact that Israel has been negligent on this point.
You have to start somewhere. Obama knows that settlements are contentious even within Israel, and an increasing percentage of American Jews are bothered by this as well.
This is not ineptness. Their actions are very “ept” for what they want — destruction of Israel, and help from the international community on the way to that goal.
That is really the fundamental flaw in the whole peace process — the assumption that both sides want coexistence.
Comment by Tal Benschar — June 12, 2009 @
Such a statement is an anathema to the assumptions held by many American Jews (including R”Elchonon) and those on the Israeli Left.One just has to watch Palestinian TV or see what they are teaching Palestinian kids in school to be convinced that they want nothing to do with any form of coexistence.
But the same way people looked the other way during all the incitement,and used the mantra “Let’s not disrupt the Peace Process”,so too here nobody seems concerned that Obama and friends are content to let Abbas get away with not wanting to recognize Israel as a Jewish State.If he is a moderate who is a radical?
(BTW Obama doesn’t seem horribly perturbed that Abbas got his Phd in Holocaust denial! so much for intellectual honesty in academia)
Israel is very strong and feared by its neighbors. It is not on the verge of destruction
As you have previously written elsewhere,that your favorite song is “Mi Yimalel” so I guess that is consistent with your statement 😉
All kidding aside,if that is the case and Israel is feared by their neighbors,why are their peace offers (which are constantly getting more generous and more appeasing)always rejected? Why aren’t the Palestinians and the Syrians on their hands and knees begging for a crumb?
“I find the loyalty of some of my colleagues to the Rush Limbaugh wing of the Republican Party ironic. We have to do what is in our long term interests. Being opposed to everything the President does and constantly looking for enemies is a sign of our insecurity and doesn’t help us influence policy.”
Being opposed to everything the President does has been the game plan of the Democratic Party for 8 years. Being aware that there is evil in the world and acting in a way that prepares us for that confrontation is wise…………..considering the results of Chamberlain’s meeting with Hitler. Evil people give an ear and listen but carry out their evil plans and purposes.
How any Jew, let alone a traditional, Orthodox Rabbi, can support a man so obviously bent on Israel’s destruction as Barack Hussein Obama, boggles the mind. I am reminded of something Rabbi Wasserman once pointed out. He asked rhetorically, how can a 13-year-old boy be required to believe in G-d, when that issue has apparently not been settled among the most sophisticated of professors? He answered that our minds can play such games with us, using all kinds of rationalizations to escape the obviousness of G-d’s Existence. I suspect that such contortions are taking place within the mind of any Jew proud of his heritage who supports Barack Hussein Obama.
Dr. Reisman wrote: Rabbi Menken dismissed President Obama’s remark That’s why the first step toward peace has to be the cessation of terrorist attacks; otherwise Israel will of course do whatever is necessary to defend herself. America would do the same.” That sounds to me like a justification for Israel’s intervention in Gaza.”
Dr. Reisman has misread; that was not said by Obama but Ari Fleischer. It is precisely what Obama failed to say, which is very much the point.
Reb Yid is correct that Truman went against his own State Department to recognize Israel (I have a great story to tell about this at another juncture). Truman had much more to fight against and went for Israel anyway — and, besides, I did say within the last 50 years.
Meanwhile the comment about extremist Arabs is disingenuous. I am sure Reb Yid has read Pro-Palestinian Advocates Sense Winds of Change in Washington in the Forward!
Israel can keep the occupied territories. It can remain a Jewish State. It can remain a Democracy.
It cannot do all three.
The alternative to a two-state solution (and mind you, that involves giving up most of the occupied territories) is that the Palestinians eventually declare that they are giving up on dreams of independence, and that the land should be formally annexed, with citizenship for all.
I don’t understand Rabbi Oberstein at all.
The gist of his response is – Obama doesn’t get it, he is pressuring the wrong side here, and the Arabs are at fault for missing all these opportunites. So, past performance somehow being a guarantee of future results (do you have money in the market?) Obama will fail. Ergo, he is pro-Israel.
Pardon the reductio ad absurdum here, but Antiochus failed at wiping out the Jewish religion, (G-d runs the world after all) hence he was pro-Torah?
(1)”While I respect Rabbi Oberstein, I believe in this case that he’s trying just a little too hard to see the bright side. (2)”How any Jew, let alone a traditional, Orthodox Rabbi, can support a man so obviously bent on Israel’s destruction as Barack Hussein Obama, boggles the mind”
Baalei Teshuva often ask me why religious Jews are so right wing. Of course, many of the baalei teshuva I know are even more right wing than the frum from birth Republicans. Maybe we do need psychological analysis in addition to political analysis to figure out why some of us want to see the same actions and hear the same words and come to opposite conclusions. It isn’t all logic on either side.
The Obama Administration has many critical issues to deal with, all with international ramifications. The American People overwhelmingly have rejected the policies of the previous administration and ,for the first time in a while, the Democrats are in a position to try to change a lot of things and are moving ahead as best one can in our system. To improve the economy is job one and I do not know how intensely foreign issues like settlements will dominate the political agenda. Nothing moves quickly in the Middle East and there is not Palestinian partner to make a deal with. Iraq, Afganistan, Iran, North Korea seem more pressing at the moment. The summer will be devoted to Health Care Reform,so how much capital will be spent pushing Israel, I don’t know.
If Raymond would listen to orthodox rabbis like Rav Amital and Rav Aharon Lichtebnstein, he would hear another view of what Hashem wants from us. Not all orthodox rabbis think that Kahane was right.
Rabbi Oberstein: “… constantly looking for enemies is a sign of our insecurity and doesn’t help us influence policy.”
Resp. (As the water now comes to a boil, these kinds of rationalizations are important.) The steam of the water is not really steam, it is just the fog of our own words. Rumors of other dead frogs in the pot are simply rumors and we need not speak in terms of rumors. After all–it is has been this hot before and we survived so we can still survive again.
All the chatter about that Obama fellow turning up the heat will make him believe we see him as an enemy and the problem with constantly looking for enemies is that it only backfires and makes us look insecure. Remember, it never really matters how hot the water really is, it all depends on how hot we believe the water to be and how civilized we appear so we can help influence the registers on the stove.
If anything, Yaakov Menken’s post (#14) confirms my statement. Hardline Arabists and Islamists are surely not in favor of a two state solution (nor, it should be added, are hardline Zionists).
So hardliners on both sides are not going to be happy with Obama.
The Forward article points to increasing contacts in America between mainstream pro-Palestinian and Jewish groups, including AIPAC. This is a very positive step and is very much what the new Administration is about as well. Too much time, energy and resources in politics, whether domestic or international, is spent on demonizing the “other”. Obama is trying to change that in a big way…to that, we should all say kol hakavod. Future generations will be grateful.
Obama? Bush went down on public record numerous times calling for a Palestinian state, and his State Department indeed called for a settlement halt over and over again.
Bush instituted all the policies Menken is blaming Obama for. Now, there are claims that at the same time Bush made back door agreements to the contrary. But ‘secret’ agreements are worthless compared to written and signed public statements to the contrary. They are just a trick to make people think they’re being supported when really they are not. At least Obama has tocho c’baro.
And this tiff over settlement construction is not anything like the size of what it has been blown up to be. Nasrallah does not lie in his bed at night dreaming of Israel ceasing settlement construction. It’s not a big issue by him; Netanyahu is just wisely using it as a kick ball.
First of all, to Rabbi Mencken, I am not a doctor, but you are right that I misread. Nonetheless, the President said much in Cairo in favor of Israel’s right to exist that no American President has ever before said in an Arab capital.
To Sam: You say that “Bush 41 and James Baker were not “far worse”; they did pressure Israel but never said anything like the “American official” (George Mitchell) did or attempted to bring down a democratically elected government.” You ought to go back and read Bush 41’s comments about how the Israel lobby was trying to pressure him, and how he tied American loan guarantees to a halt in settlement activity in a way that Obama has not yet done. As to bringing down a democratically elected government, I don’t think Obama is doing that; he may be putting pressure on Israel, but if Israel is going to accept American aid, it had better put up with the strings that come with it. Bush 43 was just as good at putting pressure on Israel when he felt like it.
To Raymond: Characterizing President Obama as “obviously bent on Israel’s destruction” is a gross misstatement, to put it mildly. Someone so obviously bent on Israel’s destruction wouldn’t have said half of what he said in Cairo.
To One Christian’s Perspective: You write that “Being opposed to everything the President does has been the game plan of the Democratic Party for 8 years” There was significant Democratic support for much of Bush 43’s legislative program, whether it was the patriot act, the war in Iraq, or the medicare part D. Democrats voted for Bush 43s bailout leglisation. I doubt you will find any case where a Bush initiative was opposed by every Democratic congressman voting on it. On the other hand, Eric Cantor has been able to deliver that type of opposition to President Obama’s legislation.
“Being opposed to everything the President does and constantly looking for enemies is a sign of our insecurity and doesn’t help us influence policy.”
I have to add one thought to what I already wrote. The Chofetz Chaim once said that one fool can do as much damage as ten reshaim.
Being well-intentioned but blinded to reality can cause as much as, if not more, damage, than those who have an evil intent. (Exhibit A: the Oslo “Peace Process.” How many “korbanos le maan ha shalom” did klal yisroel suffer for that?)
I don’t think President Obama is our enemy. I do think he indulges in a lot of wishful thinking. In economics, that will simply mean the recession drags on a few more years. In this area, it may well mean more Jewish blood spilt, rachmana li tzlan.
“…The summer will be devoted to Health Care Reform, so how much capital will be spent pushing Israel, I don’t know. If Raymond would listen to orthodox rabbis like Rav Amital and Rav Aharon Lichtebnstein, he would hear another view of what Hashem wants from us. Not all orthodox rabbis think that Kahane was right.”
So why IS so much capital now being spent pushing Israel? And most orthodox rabbis don’t think Kahana was right, just that pressuring Israel to make wasted concessions to an unwilling partner only invites more violence. A fairly logical and balanced position!
Case in point, the Gaza pullout in 2005 – did that make the region any more peaceful as was promised? No, it made it worse, as even Shimon Peres admitted. Jews were forcibly removed from their homes and businesses and in return, Hamas took over and started firing rockets without letup. All of Israel’s agreements require just one thing of the other side: stop the violence. They aren’t bound to do anything until that happens and certainly aren’t, as Reb Yid charges, “negligent on this point”.
Why should Israel make more concessions? Why should any Jew be kicked out of their homes or denied a place to live if the Arabs don’t want peace anyway and if it will only make the situation worse, not better? The idea that “if Israel would simply ignore the violence and just give everything back, their enemies would have to make peace” has been proven wrong time and again, at the cost of too much innocent Jewish blood.
Why would I want to listen to the tiny handful of Left-wing Orthodox Jews when A) the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Jews are naturally politically conservative, and B) I happen to be politically conservative because it actually makes a whole lot more sense to me that do the Leftists. See, implied in such a suggestion, is the stereotype that somehow people can only be politically conservative through blind adherence, and not because of logic and evidence.
There is substantial historical precedent to come to the very reasonable conclusion that variants of socialism are inherently antisemitic (and bad for gentiles, too), while the almost magical combination of free-market capitalism and the Judeo-Christian ethic is inherently philosemitic. Stated a slightly different way, when a radical Democrat is pro-Israel, it is in spite of his political views, while when a Reagen Republican is pro-Israel, it is because of his political views. If not for those Americans who adhere to those latter views, Barack Hussein Obama could and would become a modern-day version of a certain notorious German dictator.
“A) the overwhelming majority of Orthodox Jews are naturally politically conservative,”
What is your evidence for this? In previous elections I doubt if even 50% of Orthodox Jews voted Republican. I suspect the percentage was even lower in 2008.
Raymond: Why would I want to listen to the tiny handful of Left-wing Orthodox Jews
Ori: Because you can learn different things from people you disagree with than from members of your own camp. There’s a reason the primary textbook in Yeshiva is a book of arguments.
According to studies cited by Michael Medved, whose integrity is fairly solid, typically 75% of Jews overall vote Democrat, while typically 75% of traditional, Orthodox Jews vote Republican. I think an interesting side point to consider here, is that both President Bush and John McCain are wildly popular in Israel, while Obama is most definitely not. Who better knows about islamofascist terrorism and who is willing to fight it, than Israel?
It is amusing to me that liberals are forever faulting conservatives for being narrow-minded, when in reality, conservatives have little choice but to constantly butt heads with liberal thought, while liberals can spend their entire lives in their liberal enclaves without a clue as to what conservatives are really all about. It is also sad, because conservatives tend to be nice, wholesome family people, while many liberals of radical bent tend to base their lives on how defiant, angry, anti-establishment, and anti-Torah in their values that they can be. I think, for example, of Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin, or even President Bush for that matter; two of the nicest Americans in public office around, yet they are incessantly villified and hated by the radical Left. Meanwhile, Jews would be smart to support such leaders as that Governor and President, as both are decidedly pro-Israel while Barack Hussein Obama seems determined to destroy our little Jewish State.
Some of my best friends and all my mechutanim of my children( except one liberal new Yorker) are Republicans. Rather than respond to ad nominem inuendoes and insults of anyone who thinks differently, I will answer with a polite response.
I grew up around my father’s grocery store in an all black neighborhood and played with the children . I learned from my father to care about all of Hashem’s children and saw how revered he was by his customers.The Civil Rights Movement not only emancipated the Negroes, but also the whiltes of the South and opened the door to economic progress. The progressive programs of Roosevelt and Johnson showed America at its best. Today, we have to reform some of its excesses and put Medicare and Social Security on a better financial path and we must provide health care for all Americans, including the 40 million who do not have coverage.
We have a “do something” government in Washington that is grappling with a full plate of critical issues and I want them to succeed.
Yes, there is room to find fault with every governent policy and program since 1789, but I will not demonize those who honestly prefer alternative approachs. Republicans and Democrats are equally good Americans. Why is that such a hard thing for some of you to get?
Please stay on topic; the discussion here is about Obama pressuring Israel, not your adoration for his domestic platform (and the reason you voted for him). Just as “the progressive programs of Roosevelt” still allowed him to stand by and watch six million Jews go up in smoke and do nothing, despite having a mandate and majorities in both Houses of Congress for twelve years. He was no Jew-lover and Obama is no great supporter of Israel.
“We have a “do something” government … and I want them to succeed”
– Your implication necessarily is that those who expose their flaws do NOT want them to succeed.
The American People overwhelmingly have rejected the policies of the previous administration
Are you kidding? He won 54-46%, after the biggest collapse in the stock market since the great depression.
In 2003, some people were writing that the Democrats were done. After the 1976 elections, the Democrats controled the Presidency, the House and the Senate (64-36). Some then wrote that the Republicans were done. We know what happened yet. I would make a straight bet that the Republicans will win the next Presidental election.
May my entire comment consist of describing the huge smile on my face? Thank you to those who came not only to my defense, but to the defense of the instinctively pro-Israel political conservatives.
Unfortunately, I am neither educated, articulate, nor perhaps even intelligent enough to make an iron-clad case for why there is abundant historical precedent for political conservatism to be the wise choice for any Jew proud of his own Jewish heritage. But there are so many thinkers astronomically more qualified than me who have made the case, from Dennis Prager to Gertrude Himmelfarb to David Galernter to Charles Krauthammer to David Horowitz to Irving Kristol to basically the entire neo-conservative movement.
My point is neither to berate anybody nor to declare any kind of victory; what I hope from this exchange of ideas, is that those Jews who care about being Jewish, yet are still stuck on what a savior FDR allegedly was, will be open-minded enough to read, for example, the columns on a website like JewishWorldReview, and/or that great monthly magazine Commentary, both of which are implicitly devoted to this very subject.
If the US Government is letting Jimmy Carter conduct any business on their behalf it shows their true colors and intentions,and it is rather odd.
Why would they let an open Anti-Semite get involved in a matter that requires an honest broker?
It shows how naive their worldview is,when they let someone whose only success has been to appease and coddle tyrants be a player
Speaking of that notorious antisemite Jimmy Carter, would it be considered permissible for us Jews to collectively pray to G-d for that man’s death? Other than Yasar Arafat himself, I do not recall ever wanting anybody dead in my lifetime as much as I do in the case of Jimmy Carter, the only open and proud antisemite ever to serve in the White House (although we may have a second such case in the White House even as we speak).
For those who seek to understand Jimmy Carter, I reccomend the recent book by Aaron David Miller on his years as part of the Middle East Peace Process team . He interviewed Carter and Kissinger for the book,although he came aboard after their terms. Everyone agrees that Carter is self righteous and doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t see things the way he does. He was a failure as a President and has been out of office a very long time. To the best of my knowledge, he injects himself into international affairs, he is not asked to do so by the government. If I am wrong, please correct me. It is ironic that the born again Christians are Israel’s most vociferous supporters and Carter is very much a born again Christian. He can be very detrimental and do a lot of harm, he is certainly against settlements and was so when he was President. A lot of Jews who were supporters of him have dropped out, so I guess the ones who know him the best, have decided that he is not really that even handed. I think in the State Department they were called “Arabists”. Does he dislike Jews as Jews? Is there any evidence of that. He is mad that the Jews don’t follow him. I think that Mohammed and Martin Luther also got mad at the Jews for not following them. My ultimate test of a righteous gentile is this, would Jimmy Carter hid a Jew if there were a holocaust? I tend to think he wwould, out of Christian charity. Maybe or maybe not, but he is not a Jew hater as much as an arrogant person clothed in religious piety. That doesn’t mean he isn’t dangerous, jusnot a notorious anti-semite.
Does it not bother you that BHO and Hilliary are constantly saying that Israel should lift the Gaza embargo,but neither one had said nary a word on Gilad Shalits behalf?
I wonder how many times you voted for Carter? I’d guess twice. Here’s something Obama has in common with Carter – neither seem to think there’s such a thing as an evil person. How charitable. They both stick out their hands in friendship to the despots of the world, making them both equally naive, and yes, dangerous.
“As a congressman, Sanford voted in favor of three of four articles of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, citing the need for “moral legitimacy.” This quote from today’s news about the governor of South Carolina makes my point. My point is that demonizing one side or the other is rediculous. I can’t understand the visceral hatred of so many frum Jews and others for some politicians and their love affair with others. Pirkei Avos had it right when it told us to not put our trust in the ruling authorities.
Some of my critics seem to think that I am a spokesman and aplogist for Obama or Hillary or whomever else they don’t like. My retort is to stop being so simplistic . There is something wrong when so many of our politicians have to pretend to be what they are not. Maybe we would better off if we didn’t make them live a lie until they crack up. Berlosconi doesn’t deny he has affairs, just that he has to pay. No one in Italy seems to care if he isn’t faithful to his wife, except for his wife, who wants a divorce. Do they have divorces in Catholic Italy?
” I would make a straight bet that the Republicans will win the next Presidental election” My son would like to take you up on your bet and thinks he can make a lot of money off the deal. He has always wanted an easy way to make money and taking this bet is it.
Some of my critics seem to think that I am a spokesman and aplogist for Obama or Hillary or whomever else they don’t like. My retort is to stop being so simplistic . There is something wrong when so many of our politicians have to pretend to be what they are not.
WADR you are getting of topic again.The question is not about the piety of politicians,and their party affiliation,the question is how do you back pols that have been openly hostile to Israel.IIRC that was the subject of this post
“hostile” is a pejorative term that is highly sensational. The United States position on settlements is unchanged through many administrations. It is not the job of the American President to back the right wing of Israeli politics, when even many in Israel favor stopping settlement activity. Few Israelis identify with the settlements any more and most feel they are an impediment to peace. Does that make these Isaelis “hostile”? Yes it does to ideologues who can’t see further than their noses. Despite the above, I don’t think that there will be much change in the near future. Obama is getting bogged down in other quagmires and he has more than a full plate of problems that are more pressing at the moment. I myself just gave a contribution to the Hebron Fund, even though it is not my ideological first choice . Why? Because they are good people and I wanted to help them out. That doesn’t mean that the present situation is in the long term interests of the State of Israel. Since when did chareidim start becoming so pro settlements . Is there any distance between the chareidi position and that of Lubavitch, or have the previous positions of gedolei yisroel on the issue of territorial compromise became passe?
as far as off message, I can decide my message, I am not the spokesman of any group and no one has claimed me as their voice.
“…have the previous positions of gedolei yisroel on the issue of territorial compromise became passe?”
Yes, they have become passe because the Gedolei Yisrael are no longer espousing territorial compromise. When was the last time you heard any Gadol doing so? That’s because they (unlike Obama) realize we have no partner to compromise with and never said that Israel should give back land for nothing!
Since when did chareidim start becoming so pro settlements . Is there any distance between the chareidi position and that of Lubavitch, or have the previous positions of gedolei yisroel on the issue of territorial compromise became passe?
The Charedi World are not pro-settlement per se.They are worried about Charedi enclaves that startle the Green Line like Beitar and Kiryat Sefer.Due to the duplicity and double talk of Hilliary,and BHO seeming willingness to throw Israel under the bus,the “Natural Growth” issue is very pertinent,especially in Charedi circles.
While I grant you,that many Gedolim were in favor of “Land for Peace” that was before the abject failure of Oslo (I imagine you view it as a success) Rav Schach in his last years realised that there was nobody to talk too,and Arafat was not a viable peace partner.
Funny how things have come full circle.The Secular/Labor/Shomer Hatzair crowd used to mock anybody to the right of them,as being “Mah Yafis” Jews.Funny how it’s the LW crowd that despite all the unadulterated hatred from the Arabs even after the Oslo debacle,are still desperate to dance “Mah Yafis”
“Few Israelis identify with the settlements any more and most feel they are an impediment to peace. Does that make these Isaelis “hostile”? ”
– This is a clever point, but like everything else in life it all comes down to context. For an Israeli to be against the settlements obviously does not make him hostile. However, for an American leader to be willing to take a stand that even appears to be tough on Israel is a resonable indicator of a less supportive attitude. Put another way, if you have enough comviction to stick your head into this machlokes, there likely is much more where that came from.
Sam, I do not think you are factually correct. Rav JB Soloveitchik and Rav Shach and Rav Ovadia Yosef all came out for land for peace, if it means real peace. No one at the moment thinks that the Palestinians are psychologically or ideologically ready to accept Israel’s right to exist, so it isn’t actual at the moment. The Mercaz Harav people on the other hand and Lubavitch have a non pragmatic , highly ideological desire to claim every inch of the land and oppose on principal any return of land. The issue is not whether it is going to happen or if it is practical, it is whether there is a mitzvah not to compromise even if it would bring peace. One of my problems with some of those who argue is that they put words into someone else’s mouth and then disagree with the pretend argument. I am not a fellow traveller of Yossie Beilin, and most people realize that Oslo did not work out. The difference is that Hamas and some settlers are happy it didn’t work out and I wish that there had been a successful way to avoid the Intifada and the continued bloodshed. I think there are many who feel the bloodshed, even risking the lives of their own children, is a proper price to pay to hold onto every inch of Eretz Yisrael. I think the gedolilm I mentioned believed that if it would bring true peace, then it is “kedai” to make painful sacrifices for peace.
Don’t always assume that people who have a different opinion are ignorant or self hating of collaborators or whatever pejoritive you want to use. Maybe, they are just as smart as you but have a different understanding of reality.
Let’s get back to the issue at hand. Last year, you sent out an unsolicited political email in which you told the recipients that you supported Obama because you were convinced he’d be a “strong supporter of Israel”. When challenged to back it up with some evidence, you couldn’t. Now, a year later, you were asked whether you were correct, that he’s actually a “strong supporter of Israel”.
Your dance-steps around this issue bring to mind Michael Jackson (RIP). Rather than answer the question, you’ve engaged in every kind of rhetoric aimed at those who disagree with you. But we’re all still waiting for an answer to a very simple question:
Can you honestly say that what we’re seeing is what you had in mind when you claimed Obama would be a “strong supporter of Israel”?
Yes or No?
” Is there any distance between the chareidi position and that of Lubavitch,..”
Is Lubavitch not charedi?
# 46 – I answered this in # 44. If you don’t know that Rav Shach had a differeent view on the “shtachim” than the Rebbe, then what more can I say?
Can you honestly say that what we’re seeing is what you had in mind when you claimed Obama would be a “strong supporter of Israel”?
I am not surprised nor am I dismayed. Obama is no worse than Bush/Baker. As we speak, they are working out some accomodation between Netanyahu and the United States. As I have written before, support for a two state solution and actually trying to move the parties along is not the same as being against Israel. You may not agree.
Then it probably would have been more honest on your part to have said in your unsolicited political email that you define a “strong supporter of Israel” as someone who, “acting like Bush/Baker, would support a two state solution and try to move the parties along”. It’s probably a safe bet that most of your target recipients do not have the same definition.
I am not surprised nor am I dismayed. Obama is no worse than Bush/Baker
Nobody had any illusions about Bush/Baker.But you and (many Jews to the left of you) are seemingly euphoric about Obama and his dream team of Hillary and Rahm Emanuel.
Do you really believe that the Jewish RW was as instrumental in sabotaging Oslo as were the PA and Hamas?
A man of your intelligence and acumen should know better than to parrot LW Israeli academia apologetics,whose post-Zionist attitude seems to dominate the Op-ed section of Haretz
L. Oberstein, I thought Lubavitchers are also charedim. It’s interesting that charedim means different things to different people. In your mind, a charedi is a “chassid” of Rov Shach. To the people in the street in EY, we are all charedim.
I have tried to make this point several times, but ,apparently without success. Perhaps this column can express it better. For those who want me to confess in public and do penance for daring to express an opinion that some do not agree with, I can only say. Thank G-d, we live in the USA, not in Iran.
HAS OBAMA TURNED ON ISRAEL?
ALAN M. DERSHOWITZ has written this in the Wall Street Journal.
Many American supporters of Israel who voted for Barack Obama now suspect they may have been victims of a bait and switch. Jewish Americans voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Obama over John McCain in part because the Obama campaign went to great lengths to assure these voters that a President Obama would be supportive of Israel. This despite his friendships with rabidly anti-Israel characters like Rev. Jeremiah Wright and historian Rashid Khalidi.
At the suggestion of Mr. Obama’s Jewish supporters — including me — the candidate visited the beleaguered town of Sderot, which had borne the brunt of thousands of rocket attacks by Hamas. Standing in front of the rocket shells, Mr. Obama declared: “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” This heartfelt statement sealed the deal for many supporters of Israel.
Now, some of them apparently have voters’ remorse. According to Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, “President Obama’s strongest supporters among Jewish leaders are deeply troubled by his recent Middle East initiatives, and some are questioning what he really believes.” I hear the same thing from rank-and-file supporters of Israel who voted for Mr. Obama.
Are these fears justified? Rhetorically, the Obama team has definitely taken a harsher approach toward Israel compared to its tone during the campaign. But has there been a change in substance about Israel’s security? In answering this question, it is essential to distinguish between several aspects of American policy.
First there are the settlements. The Bush administration was against expansion of West Bank settlements, but it was willing to accept a “natural growth” exception that implicitly permitted Israel to expand existing settlements in order to accommodate family growth. The Obama administration has so far shut the door on this exception.
I believe there is a logical compromise on settlement growth that has been proposed by Yousef Munayyer, a leader of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League. “Obama should make it clear to the Israelis that settlers should feel free to grow their families as long as their settlements grow vertically, and not horizontally,” he wrote last month in the Boston Globe. In other words, build “up” rather than “out.” This seems fair to both sides, since it would preserve the status quo for future negotiations that could lead to a demilitarized Palestinian state and Arab recognition of Israel as a Jewish one — results sought by both the Obama administration and Israel.
A majority of American-Jewish supporters of Israel, as well as Israelis, do not favor settlement expansion. Thus the Obama position on settlement expansion, whether one agrees with it or not, is not at all inconsistent with support for Israel. It may be a different position from that of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but it is not a difference that should matter to most Jewish voters who support both Mr. Obama and Israel.
The differences that would matter are those — if they exist — that directly impact Israel’s security. And in terms of Israel’s security, nothing presents a greater threat than Iran.
The Obama administration consistently says that Iran should not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons. But prior to the current unrest in the Islamic Republic, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel frightened many supporters of Israel in May by appearing to link American efforts to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons to Israeli actions with regard to the settlements.
This is a disturbing linkage that should be disavowed by the Obama administration. Opposition to a nuclear Iran — which would endanger the entire world — should not be dependent in any way on the issue of settlement expansion.
The current turmoil in Iran may strengthen the Obama administration as it seeks to use diplomacy, sanctions and other nonmilitary means to prevent the development of nuclear weapons. But if these tactics fail, the military option, undesirable and dangerous as it is, must not be taken off the table. If the Obama administration were to shift toward learning to live with a nuclear Iran and attempt to deny Israel the painful option of attacking its nuclear targets as a last resort, that would be troubling indeed. Thankfully, the Obama administration’s point man on this issue, Dennis Ross, shows no signs of weakening American opposition to a nuclear-armed Iran.
A related threat to Israeli security comes from Iran’s proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas. For years, these terrorist groups have disrupted life in Israel by firing rockets at civilians. The range of their weapons now extends to Israel’s heartland, including Tel Aviv. The Israeli Defense Forces must retain the ability to prevent and deter rocket fire, even if it comes from behind human shields as it did in southern Lebanon and Gaza. There is no evidence of any weakening of American support for Israel’s right to defend its children from the kind of rocket attacks candidate Obama commented on during his visit to Sderot.
There may be coming changes in the Obama administration’s policies that do weaken the security of the Jewish state. Successful presidential candidates often soften their support for Israel once they are elected. So with Iran’s burgeoning nuclear threat, it’s important to be vigilant for any signs of weakening support for Israel’s security — and to criticize forcefully any such change. But getting tough on settlement expansion should not be confused with undercutting Israel’s security.
Mr. Dershowitz is a law professor at Harvard. His latest book is “The Case for Moral Clarity” (Camera, 2009).
To Rabbi Oberstein:
It’s a futile attempt to try to convince many of these posters. For them, Obama can do no right and Bush can do no wrong.
Bush said and did many of the same things, and right wing Jews were by and large silent. One of the first things Sarah Palin said in her VP debate was that “a two state solution is the solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Again, if Obama or Biden had said this during the debates, we would have heard a lot of negative comments from some of these posters.
“…Obama should make it clear to the Israelis that settlers should feel free to grow their families as long as their settlements grow vertically, and not horizontally”
Why, that will solve the entire Arab-Israeli conflict! Why couldn’t the Israelis think of that? I think Yousef Munayyer should get the Noble Prize for Peace! Up and not out… Brilliant!
“This is a disturbing linkage that should be disavowed by the Obama administration. Opposition to a nuclear Iran — which would endanger the entire world — should not be dependent in any way on the issue of settlement expansion.”
Then why the linkage if they are such strong supporters? No previous government has ever even hinted at such a hardline diplomatic approach!
“There may be coming changes in the Obama administration’s policies that do weaken the security of the Jewish state.”
Given what we’ve seen over the past few months, there probably will be.
Overall, a very weak defense by Dershowitz of a President that he “just knew in his kishkes” would be a strong supporter of Israel. I expected more from him…and from you!
There may be coming changes in the Obama administration’s policies that do weaken the security of the Jewish state. Successful presidential candidates often soften their support for Israel once they are elected. So with Iran’s burgeoning nuclear threat, it’s important to be vigilant for any signs of weakening support for Israel’s security — and to criticize forcefully any such change. But getting tough on settlement expansion should not be confused with undercutting Israel’s security
So what does Alan Dershowitz suggest we do? Sit on our hands and hope for the best?While he is no dummy,his views on BHO and his policies are almost as delusional as his views on Judaism