Obama’s ‘sweet nothings’

Yesterday in The New York Times, Israeli-American Haim Saban wrote that he will be voting for Obama in the upcoming election not in spite of, but because he is a strong supporter of Israel. He concluded his article by writing, “I’ll take another four years of Mr. Obama’s steadfast support over Mr. Romney’s sweet nothings.”

Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Saban, but Obama’s support for Israel has been anything but steadfast. Saban acknowledges that Obama has not visited Israel since becoming president, but resorts to saying that facts are what matter. Isn’t not visiting Israel a fact? The fact is that Romney has promised that Israel will be the first country he visits as a president, and even when Obama was close by in Egypt, he did not pay a visit to Israel.

Today, after criticism in response to several pro-Israel statements having been removed from the Democrats’ platform, Obama quickly backtracked and decided to put it back.

This situation is eerily similar to when Obama endorsed a return to the indefensible 1967 lines and then “clarified” what he had meant to AIPAC: that he had not actually meant that the 1967 borders would be final. He could not, however, explain what he had meant. He did mention that negotiations were important, but the assumption that negotiations are even possible is naïve, considering that the constitution of Hamas, the democratically elected government’s of the Palestinian territories, calls for the destruction of the State of Israel side.

Let’s not doubt that what Obama says first is what he means. Then, when there is a backlash, he tells a whole other story to his Jewish donors. Those don’t seem like facts to me.

Saban further writes that he is confident that one can “Ask any senior Israeli official involved in national security, and he will tell you that the strategic relationship between the United States and Israel has never been stronger than under President Obama.”

Let’s look at the situation: Ahmadinejad has continuously stated that he wishes to finish off Israel. US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has been urging sanctions while a new report by the International Atomic Agency describes how Iran is continuing on its path toward a nuclear weapon. Obama has still not made it clear that he will support an Israeli strike. The US government recently decided to reduce its military presence in a joint drill with Israel. I do not know how these facts can evince a strong security relationship between the US and Israel.

With Israel facing one of the greatest threats in its existence, this is not the time for the US president to show tough love. This is a time to strengthen military and intelligence cooperation. This is a time to promote democracy in countries like Syria and Egypt, and that means supporting the only democracy in the Middle East — Israel. This is the time to realize that sanctions will continue to be ineffective in stopping Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

On Election Day, American citizens must weigh the various issues important to themselves and their country. And Israel is, of course, not the only issue at stake here. But in order to weigh issues properly, citizens must also be informed about where candidates stand. And to borrow a term from Saban, I must say that on the issue of Israel, it is clear that it is Obama, not Romney, who has continually whispered meaningless “sweet nothings.”

About the Author
Josefin Dolsten currently lives in Jerusalem, where she is pursuing an MA in Jewish Studies and Religious Studies from Hebrew University. Previously she studied Government and Near Eastern Studies at Cornell University. She enjoys writing about religion and politics.