Last week, on Jan. 19, U.S. President Barack Obama released a video called “America and Israel: An Unbreakable Bond.”
The seven-minute clip is an amalgamation of sound bites from the president’s own speeches, interspersed with statements made by different prominent Israeli leaders, among them Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Its apparent purpose is to refute claims on the part of the Republicans that the Obama administration is anti-Israel. Its true goal is to keep the president’s campaign afloat with Jewish cash.
To achieve this objective, the video features the voices of President Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren, and Netanyahu himself waxing poetic about Obama.
It’s a neat trick.
In his first three years in office, Obama has emerged as the most openly hostile U.S. president Israel has ever known. This is no surprise, given his oft-stated commitment to “outreach and dialogue” with sworn enemies across the globe, chief among them Iran.
Nor is it peculiar that, in spite of the above, Obama continued to take the Jewish vote for granted. After all, it is no secret that American Jews — even many who do care about Israel’s fate and survival — would rather be nuked by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s mullahs than cast their ballots for a Republican candidate.
What Obama didn’t bank on, however, was getting a cold financial shoulder from Jewish backers he assumed he would have in his pocket, along with their millions. Imagine his horror when figures like TV and media magnate Haim Saban, of “Power Rangers” fame, decided to cut a substantial amount of his support for the very president he had helped usher into the White House. Nor was Saban the only Jew to grow uncomfortable with Obama’s blatant aggression against Israel in word and deed.
What Obama and his team came to grasp was that, of all the factors which had handed him a landslide into the Oval Office, an empty till was not one of them.
With fiasco after disaster under his belt by now — and a Middle East on fire not with democracy, but with increased anti-Western radicalism — the inept incumbent can ill afford, both literally and figuratively, to lose Jewish money.
This predicament is compounded by the fact that, like his sycophants in the liberal mainstream media, Obama has been only too happy to blame Wall Street, not his own socialist policies, for the economic woes of the American people. Nevertheless, he still has to hedge his bets on hedge-fund bucks.
It remains to be seen whether his campaign managers’ transparent attempt at assuring rich Jews that Obama is Israel’s best friend will have the desired effect. It will certainly be welcomed by the Peace Now-niks and JStreeters who want Obama to win, precisely so that he will continue to pressure Israel to make concessions in exchange for nothing.
But it should also serve as a lesson to Netanyahu and co. for being so foolish as to have made public statements about Obama’s undying loyalty and friendship which they knew to be patently false.
Though it is, and always has been, par for the course for Israeli leaders to behave with deference to the U.S. administration, it is neither necessary nor desirable for them to bend over backwards to defend American moves that run contrary to Israeli interests. Netanyahu’s tight spot with a president who was caught on tape commiserating with counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy about having to “deal with” Netanyahu on a regular basis deserves no small degree of empathy.
But his response to it has been worse than counter-productive. Going out of his way (with the help of Oren) to laud Obama at synagogues and AIPAC conferences is taking the need to stress the U.S.’s friendship way beyond the call of duty. And all it has accomplished is to provide the president with grist for his PR mill.
Ruthie Blum is a former senior editor and columnist at The Jerusalem Post. She is currently writing a book about the radicalization of the Middle East, to be published by RVP Press in the spring.