Steve Sheffey
Pro-Israel writer and activist

Susan Rice is pro-Israel

In much the same way that Mitt Romney and his surrogates unsuccessfully tried to discredit President Obama on Israel, Anne Bayefsky and Michael Mukasey attempt to besmirch US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice’s record in their November 29 Wall Street Journal op-ed. The facts belie their claims.

Bayefsky and Mukasey begin by repeating debunked Republican talking points about Rice and Benghazi. They somehow fail to mention that two of Rice’s harshest critics, John McCain and Lindsay Graham, relayed far worse intelligence with far less justification and with far worse consequences about Saddam Hussein and his non-existent weapons of mass destruction. So did Condoleeza Rice.  Susan Rice simply communicated the best information available to her at the time.

Bayefsky and Mukasey then ask why Rice thought “it was appropriate to absent herself from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s September speech to the [UN] General Assembly.”

Had Bayefsky and Mukasey cared about the answer, they would have discovered that Bibi began speaking about an hour after he was scheduled to speak. Rice was there for a portion of Bibi’s speech. She then informed the Israeli delegation that she had to leave for the UN Secretary-General’s annual luncheon with the five permanent members of the Security Council: the US, Russia, France, China, and Great Britain.  Rice substituted for Hillary Clinton, who was at that time meeting with 21 heads of state and government and foreign ministers. Rice’s meeting focused on Syria and the importance of reinvigorating the peace process between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. This is exactly where Rice should have been. (Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman took Rice’s place during the remainder of Bibi’s speech.)

Bayefsky and Mukasey next criticize US participation in the UN Human Rights Council, as if the way to deal with international criticism of Israel is to close our eyes and hope it goes away. Before the US joined the UNHRC in 2009, the UNHRC passed 32 resolutions, of which 26 were critical of Israel. The Bush administration refused to engage UNHRC, thus leaving the council to Israel’s enemies. Rice herself explained that the Obama administration joined the UNHRC to battle the “anti-Israel crap.” The US “led unprecedented resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Libya, Iran and then Syria and putting in place mechanisms to document abuses and hold those governments to account” at the UNHRC.

The Swift Boat template advises mischaracterizing your opponent’s greatest achievements as weaknesses, so Bayefsky and Mukasey then attack Rice for vetoing a Security Council resolution condemning Israel for building settlements. Bayefsky and Mukasey are worked up because in her veto statement, Rice criticized settlements. But that’s precisely why the Obama administration deserves so much credit for the veto. US policy for decades has, rightly or wrongly, opposed Israeli settlements. This is not new to Obama. The point of the veto was that even though the US largely agreed with the substance of the resolution, the US does not countenance Palestinian abuse of the UN process to achieve what it refuses to negotiate with Israel about. Hence yesterday’s US vote against the Palestinians at the UN, and hence Rice’s strong statement yesterday supporting Israel.

Finally, Bayefsky and Mukasey imply that the Obama administration has achieved less than the Bush administration on Iran sanctions, when in fact the Obama administration has imposed more sanctions than any previous administration and rallied the international community against Iran more effectively than any previous administration.

These attacks against Rice are, of course, veiled attacks against President Obama, as the policies Bayefsky and Mukasey criticize Rice for are Obama policies. It’s almost as if the Republicans are displacing their anger toward Obama by projecting their fears and frustrations on Rice. The American people saw through these attacks during the campaign. Let’s hope that if President Obama selects Rice for Secretary of State, the Senate is as smart as the people it represents.

About the Author
Steve Sheffey was formerly the president of CityPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee based in Chicago. He is active in the Chicago Jewish and pro-Israel political communities.