David K. Rees

Deja Vu: the Obama poltergeist strikes again.

0photo credit: saul/loeb/ pool/AFP

Almost three years ago, I wrote a blog, “Obama’s ghost haunts the Democratic Party” To paraphrase the movie, “Poltergeist”, I see ghosts again.

Joe Biden is running hard for reelection. He needs to keep the J-Street (“progressive” ) wing of the Democratic Party enthusiastically supporting him  (something Hillary Clinton failed to do in 2016)  and he needs to keep  Michigan, a state with a substantial Muslim population, in the blue column.  He is in danger of losing both.

It is no secret that  Obama  and  Netanyahu did not get along. Nor is there any question that while Obama was committed to bringing peace to Israel by effecting  a two-state solution between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israel, Netanyahu, argued that the primary threat to peace for  Israel was not the PA, but the terrorists Iran, its proxies, and  Hamas, which receives millions of dollars a year and advanced missile technology from Iran.  These entities all believe that because Allah promised Muslims all the land between the Jordan River and the Sea, they must wipe Israel off the face of the earth and replace it with a Muslim theocracy.

Even then, Iran and its proxies had over 100,000 missiles ready to be fired at Israel. The Palestinian Authority  had none. Obama admitted  that the two men had this disagreement in his  autobiography, “A Promised Land” at 630-631 .

In 2013, Netanyahu  managed to put together a coalition and formed a government  which, with one exception, was all secular. Two of the most important ministers in that government were Tzipi Livni, the Justice Minister, and Yair Lapid, the Finance Minister. By November, 2014, Netanyahu looked politically weak. Following Obama’s lead, Livni and Lapid began attacking Netanyahu from within the coalition. Feeling that he could not govern under these circumstances, Netanyahu fired Livni and Lapid and called for new elections — elections which everybody was sure he was going to lose, To our shock, Netanyahu  won.  Unable to trust Livni and Lapid, after he won the election, Netanyahu turned to the Haredi (ultraorthodox) parties to form a coalition.

This week, three former members of the Obama administration attacked Israel. The first was American Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Blinken  served in the Obama administration in two capacities. From 2013 until 2015, he was the Deputy National Security Advisor. From 2015 until 2017,  he was Obama’s Deputy Secretary of  State.

This week, Blinken made his sixth trip to Israel since the October 7th massacre. This time he came to Israel, at least in part, to lecture Israel about how to minimize casualties in its war in Gaza, While he was here, he met with the same Yair Lapid  who had attacked Netanyahu from within Israel’s cabinet. Surely, Blinken knew that Lapid, now the Leader of the Opposition in the Knesset, has been  a political adversary of Netanyahu’s for over 9 years.

This week, Hillary Clinton joined the fray, saying that Netanyahu should be removed from office. Clinton, was aware of the dispute between Netanyahu and Obama: she was Obama’s Secretary of State during his first term .

Clinton’s attack on Netanyahu was particularly inappropriate. The present war demonstrates that Netanyahu was absolutely right when he argued that the greatest threat to Israel came from the terrorists and not the PA.  Today, Israel is fighting a war against Hamas in Gaza, Iranian proxy Hezbollah in the north, and another Iranian proxy, the Houthis, who are firing missiles at southern Israel and Israel shipping in the gulf of Aden.

Hillary Clinton’s focus on  Netanyahu reflects her Obama-era perspective.  Netanyahu is not alone in his  position on this war.  He  is supported by most prominent Israeli politicians, except those on the far left. That includes Benny Gantz, who by all the polls would beat Netanyahu handily if another election were held today.

Clinton’s attack on Netanyahu ignores the realities of Israeli politics in a second way.  The entire country is furious with this  government for letting October 7th happen. Once this war is over, lots of heads are going to roll.  This government will surely fall, but not because of Hilary Clinton.

This week, Joe Biden, Obama’s Vice President —  who was often pro-Israel within  the Obama White House —joined the fray, declaring that  Israel’s response in the Gaza Strip has been “over the top,”

Biden, Clinton, and Blinken’s attack on Israel leaves out some  basic facts which all of them know. Starting when  Bush 43 was President, the United  States was at war in Afghanistan. That war continued through both of  Obama’s terms as President and lasted until after Biden became president.  While there are no good figures on the number of civilian deaths in that war, estimates have ranged between 46,000 and over 200,000 people. Whatever the number, it is many times more than the number of civilian deaths caused by Israel in the Gaza war. Concerned about the number of civilian deaths it was causing. the United States military sent people to Israel to learn how to prevent them.

The threat that Israel faces today is very real. The previous major war between Israel and Hamas took place in 2014. For the first time, Hamas had missiles sophisticated enough to reach Tel Aviv. For the first time, I had to spend hours in my safe room listing to Iron Dome intercept missiles which were being fired at me. A little over a week before the 2014 war ended, Egypt submitted a peace proposal to both sides. That proposal was very controversial within the Israeli security cabinet: the hardliners took the position that Israel should reject the peace proposal, invade Gaza, and eliminate Hamas once and for all. The  moderate members of the security cabinet, led by Netanyahu, disagreed; Israel accepted the peace proposal. Hamas rejected it. After another week of fighting during which roughly half of the Gazans who died in the war were killed, Hamas accepted a very similar peace proposal. Since then, Hamas, apparently using large sums of Iranian money, has built a very-complex, very-expensive tunnel system which has made Israel’s invasion of Gaza much more difficult than it would have been in 2014.  As of this week over 250 Israel soldiers had lost their lives in this Gaza war.

Israel does NOT need to be lectured by the United States about how to reduce civilian casualties, but Joe Biden is up for re-election. Still, Biden is running for President while Israelis is fighting for its very survival.

About the Author
Before making Aliyah from the United States, I spent over three decades as a lawyer in the United States. My practice involved handling many civil rights cases, including women's- rights cases, in State and Federal courts. I handled numerous constitutional cases for the ACLU and argued one civil rights case in the United States Supreme Court. I chaired the Colorado Supreme Court's Committee on the Rules of Criminal Procedure and served on the Colorado Supreme Court's Civil Rules and Rules of Evidence Committees. Since much of my practice involved the public interest, I became interested in environmental law and worked closely with environmental organizations, including the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). I was on the Rocky Mountain Board of EDF. I received an award from the Nebraska Sierra Club as a result of winning a huge environmental case that was referred to me by EDF. I also developed significant knowledge of hazardous and radioactive waste disposal. I was involved in a number of law suits concerning waste disposal, including a highly-political one in the United States Supreme Court which involved the disposal of nuclear waste. As I child I was told by my mother, a German, Jewish refugee who fled Nazi Germany, that Israel was a place for her and her child. When I first visited Israel many years later, I understood what she meant. My feeling of belonging in Israel caused me to make Aliyah and Israel my home. Though I am retired now, I have continued my interest in activism and the world in which I find myself.
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