This week in two meetings with prominent American Jews, President Barack Obama threw down the gauntlet. Either the Jews of America will rise to the challenge or they will allow Obama to marginalize them.
It is their choice, and now is the time for them to decide.
In the first meeting, Obama met with centrist Jewish leaders from major Jewish organizations like the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the Anti-Defamation League and AIPAC. Major donors to these groups, like to almost every other major Jewish organization in America, are largely Democrats.
According to The Washington Post, the purpose of the meeting was “to defuse antagonism toward [Obama] and to convince [Jewish leaders] that he shares their concerns about the safety of Israel and the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.”
That is, the main goal of the meeting was to silence Jewish criticism of Obama’s deal with Iran.
So far, Obama seems to have accomplished that goal.
Although, according to a source who spoke to The Algemeiner, the atmosphere at the meeting was “ungiving, very stern and tense.” Since the meeting took place, none of the leaders who participated has openly criticized Obama’s policies regarding Iran. Their silence comes despite the fact that, according to the participants who spoke with The Algemeiner, Obama did not allay the concerns they expressed regarding the dangers his nuclear deal with Iran constitute for Israel.
The second meeting of the day was a far friendlier affair. According to The Algemeiner, participants included supporters of the anti-Israel organization J Street, including Alexandra Stanton, Lou Susman, and Victor Kovner. Other outspoken leftist Jews, including Haim Saban and former AIPAC presidents Amy Friedkin and Howard Friedman, also attended.
As The Algemeiner reported, participants in this meeting were much less concerned about Obama’s deal with Iran. At least one participant, described as more “centrist” than other participants gushed at the president, saying, “You are doing the right thing [with Iran]. We are behind you 100 percent.”
Participants in the second meeting also were excited at the prospect of Obama making good on his threat to act against Israel at the UN Security Council. Indeed, they lobbied him to abandon Israel at the international forum. A participant told The Algemeiner that one of his colleagues told Obama, “If you decide to go against Israel at the UN, let us know first and we’ll do the legwork for you, in the [Jewish] community…so you’re not going to come in cold.”
The purpose then of Obama’s second meeting with American Jews was not to silence dissent, but to mobilize his supporters to weaken community opposition to his hostile policies toward Israel, both in regard to Iran and in regard to the Palestinians.
And here, too, the meeting was largely successful.
An indication of the success of Obama’s efforts to rally his Jewish supporters in favor of his anti-Israel policies came on Wednesday, when the Jewish arm of the Democratic Party, the National Jewish Democratic Council, issued a stunning press release. In it, the NJDC condemned Sen. Marco Rubio for supporting Israel. On Monday, Rubio announced that he is running for president.
Rubio’s pro-Israel crime involved his plan get the Senate to condition approval of Obama’s nuclear deal with the ayatollahs on Iran’s recognizing Israel’s right to exist. According to the NJDC, Rubio’s plan, “has no purpose other than to politicize the US-Israel relationship at a time when the Jewish state needs our steadfast support. It is shameful that Sen. Rubio would further politicize this issue to advance his own political goals.”
If the NJDC is truly steadfast in its support for Israel, it is hard to understand what its members are so upset about.
As far as Israelis are concerned, Rubio’s plan is aligned with the widest political consensus imaginable.
The Israeli Left, led by Labor Party leader Yitzhak Herzog, supports Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s demand that sanctions against Iran should be dropped only after Iran recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
As to America, it is hard to understand how anyone in the American mainstream could oppose conditioning Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons on its abandonment of its aim to destroy Israel.
Obama himself has always insisted that protecting Israel’s security is a paramount goal of his presidency.
Both in his meetings with Jewish leaders and in his interview earlier this month with The New York Times’s Tom Friedman, Obama claims to have been deeply hurt by accusations that he doesn’t care about Israel’s security and said that he would consider it a personal failure if Israel were weaker when he leaves office.
Yet, by refusing to condition a nuclear deal that as Obama himself acknowledges will reduce Iran’s breakout time for military nuclear capabilities to zero on Iran’s eschewal of the goal of Israel’s destruction, the NJDC, like Obama himself, is not protecting Israel or supporting it. Like Obama, the NJDC is indirectly legitimizing Iran’s goal of destroying Israel.
By attacking Rubio for promoting a position that is intuitively reasonable, and in line with a very low common-denominator of support for Israel, the NJDC revealed that, from its perspective, the only way for Republicans not to “politicize” support for Israel is by joining Democrats in opposing Israel.
A new poll released this week by Bloomberg reinforces the growing sense that Israel has become a partisan issue. Today more and more Democrats view support for Israel as a Republican position. Whereas two thirds of Republicans support Israel even if its positions are at odds with those of the administration, three quarters of Democrats support the administration against Israel. Polls in recent years indicate that Republican support for Israel is nearly unanimous, while less than half of Democrats support the Jewish state.
It appears that Obama’s charm offensive among American Jews over the past two weeks on the one hand, and the NJDC’s statement that empties the term “pro-Israel” of all meaning on the other, are aimed at removing the issue of Israel from the political debate at least until Obama achieves his goal of signing a nuclear deal with Iran by June 30.
(To Be Continued Next Week)