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Election 2012


Facts in Action: Obama and his Support of Israel

October 12th 2012

Obama Bibi

What can a young boy living in Israel show us about American policy and the support the American president may have for Israel?

In an era when candidates tell audiences of all persuasions what they want to hear in order to steer votes their way, what should an electorate do to discern the truth from hyperbole?

No matter which candidate or party one supports, the messages seem to always change, the promises seem to adjust to the sounds of popular opinion and we are left being bombarded with pundits every day attempting to interpret the newest campaign comments and gaffes into palatable positions.

What was once true to John Adams, still applies today; he said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.”

The fact is that for the past nine years, Menachem Zivotofsky, an Israeli-born American citizen, has been fighting through his parents and attorney, Nathan Lewin, for the U.S. Congress to enforce a law that it passed overwhelmingly in 2002. Even after a resounding loss in the Supreme Court, with two of the judges appointed by President Obama voting with the majority, the President and the State Department will not allow American citizens born in Jerusalem to identify themselves on their American passports as being born in the country of “Israel,” even those born in Western Jerusalem which many had thought was previously undisputed.

As an interesting contrast to this issue, whereas anyone born in any other part of Israel can list Israel as their birth country on their American passports, the U.S. State Department has made a unique accommodation for those opposed to Israel’s very existence.  These people can just list the city of birth but without the country.  So, if they are born, say in Haifa or Tel Aviv, an Israeli American can list Israel as the country of birth, and a Palestinian American can voluntarily leave Israel off and just use the city or town as the general location of birth.  That is a fact.

This administration is fighting an American’s right to list his country of birth as Israel even though he was born in Western Jerusalem, but allows anyone who wishes born within the pre-1967 borders to ignore Israel entirely by will.  So, where does President Obama stand on the status of Jerusalem?

About six weeks ago the Democratic Party held its convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and gasps of shock were heard when the issue of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel was removed from the Democratic platform statements. Amidst the confusion and desperation to hide the truth, it was awkwardly placed back on the Democratic National Platform in an uncomfortable to watch, highly questioned, very public televised vote that seemed to have actually failed.

Then, the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz, declared that, “The platform is being amended to maintain consistency with the personal views expressed by the President and in the Democratic Party platform in 2008,” which states that "Jerusalem is and will remain the capital of Israel.”

In another address on the matter, former Democratic Congressman and president of the Center for Middle East Peace, Robert Wexler said that President Obama’s policy on Israel shows, "an unflinching commitment" and assured the audience that “The president directly intervened to make sure this amendment happened," and had the Jerusalem language added back to the platform.

That "unflinching commitment" must have been yet unknown to White House spokesman Jay Carney when, prior to the Convention, at a White House press briefing on July 26, he refused to acknowledge that Jerusalem was considered the Capital of Israel. This was subsequently reported on by media, and the video posted to Youtube of his dodging of the question is indelible evidence of the President's less than certain policy on Israel.

On Zivotofsky v. Clinton, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in March 2012 rejected the State Department’s claim that Congress had no authority to require it to permit the identification of Jerusalem as being in Israel because it was a “political question; ” it was an 8-1 vote. The State Department has chosen to ignore that ruling and the case is heading back to court. The secretary of state contends that requiring the DOS to allow Jerusalem-born citizens to identify themselves as born in “Israel” unconstitutionally interferes with the president’s authority “to recognize foreign sovereigns.”

Since 1948, successive administrations have declined to recognize any country as having sovereignty over Jerusalem. It is not an Obama issue alone, yet it is his administration that is rejecting even undisputed western Jerusalem while claiming to support Jerusalem as the capital of Israel when it comes to lobbying for votes. The President is trying to talk the talk, having it both ways. Yet, in action, he seems to want it just his way.

So, on Israel where does he really stand?

On paper, and according to his supporters, President Obama has an indelible record on supporting Israel. The continued issuance of military aid and support for the Iron Dome missile defensive program and the administration’s support for sanctions against Iran are solid. But in reality, the aid was committed by Congress and administrations prior to Obama’s presidency, and he has not done a lot on his own, short of signing legislation that had enormous bipartisan congressional support.

Additionally, President Obama has said that he will not allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. He even pushed Congress to impose sanctions against Iran that appear to be affecting Iran’s economy. However, a July 2nd editorial in the Wall Street Journal, titled, “Obama’s Iran Loopholes: All 20 of Iran’s major trading partners have sanction exemptions,” contends that the ease of subverting those sanctions is evident. The editorial concluded, “We’ve never considered sanctions likely to persuade Iran to drop its nuclear program, but it’s dangerous to pursue them half-heartedly while claiming progress and keeping the international temperature down as Iran’s centrifuges spin.”

Facts in Context

Facts are facts and talk is talk. Mr. Romney is prone to it as well; like when he poked fun at green initiatives at the end of his Convention acceptance speech and then endorsed them in the debate he apparently won more than a week ago. The difference for Jewish voters who support Israel is which set of facts and which campaign rhetoric will offer the most comfort on the issues they care deepest about.

It is no secret that Russia supports the anti-Israel Syrian regime that is slaughtering its people and that is likely moving its weapons to Hezbollah militants who are already armed to the teeth against Israel. Nor is it a surprise that Russia has trained hundreds of Iranian nuclear scientists and blocked international action against Tehran. So when President Obama was unintentionally caught on an open microphone in March of this year telling then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that incoming president Vladimir Putin needed to give Obama “space” because, “This is my last election,” and “After my election I have more flexibility,” on missile defense negotiations, Jews need to ask what may happen in an Obama administration that is not seeking Jewish votes, money or re-election, and what other concerns will be affected by that newfound “flexibility”?

Juda Engelmayer is an executive with the NY PR agency, 5W Public Relations


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