Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
U.S. President Barack Obama defends his Israel policy at fundraiser with U.S. Jewish leaders • Jack Rosen, American Jewish Congress chairman: Jewish community concerned about Israel-U.S. ties • Obama: "No ally is more important than the state of Israel."
U.S. President Barack Obama defended his policy toward Israel on Wednesday at a political fundraiser where a prominent American Jewish leader raised concerns in the Jewish community about the U.S.-Israel relationship. Since taking office in 2009, Obama has had a difficult relationship with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has criticized him for pushing Israel too hard in the drive for a Middle East peace deal, straining Obama's standing with Jewish American voters as he campaigns for re-election next year.
However, speaking to Jewish leaders in New York on Wednesday, Obama offered strong assurances of his commitment to Israel's security.
"I try not to pat myself too much on the back, but this administration has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration," Obama said. "We don't compromise when it comes to Israel's security ... and that will continue."
The president was speaking to campaign donors at the Manhattan home of Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress, who said, "It would be remiss for me not to say there are many in the Jewish community who are concerned" about the relationship between Israel and the U.S.
Rosen added, however, that, "America has never been as supportive of the state of Israel as President Obama and his administration."
The White House wants to shore up support among Jewish voters for Obama's 2012 re-election bid. He won nearly eight of every ten Jewish votes in 2008, but a slip would jeopardize his re-election drive in battleground states like Florida and Pennsylvania.
Obama faced criticism from some Jewish leaders earlier this year when he insisted that any negotiations on the borders of a future Palestinian state be based on lines that existed before Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War. Obama has worked to restart the deadlocked Middle East peace process since taking office in January 2009, but his efforts have mostly stalled.
His chilly relationship with Netanyahu has also been the subject of speculation and news reports. In March 2010, Obama "snubbed" Netanyahu during his visit to Washington after Israel announced new construction in East Jerusalem while Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel to restart peace talks.
The White House denied Netanyahu the traditional photo-op that accompanies official visits and excluded him from a dinner with the U.S. president.
After a meeting in the Oval Office in May, Netanyahu lectured the U.S. president on his view of Middle East realities even as cameras rolled, with Obama listening glumly by his side.
Netanyahu has also cultivated close ties to the Republican party and is believed to consider Obama naive about the Middle East.
More recently, in November, reporters covering the G-20 summit in Cannes, France, overheard French President Nicolas Sarkozy call Netanyahu a "liar" while talking to Obama.
Instead of contradicting Sarkozy's characterization of Netanyahu, Obama reportedly said, "You're fed up with him, but I have to deal with him even more often than you," according to the French interpreter.
After the slip-up, Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney issued a statement saying, “President Obama’s derisive remarks about Israel’s prime minister confirm what any observer would have gleaned from his public statements and actions toward our long-standing ally, Israel. At a moment when the Jewish state is isolated and under threat, we cannot have an American president who is disdainful of our special relationship with Israel. We have here yet another reason why we need new leadership in the White House.”
However, the U.S. president also won some praise from Israel and its backers in recent months for his opposition to a Palestinian push beginning in September to win U.N. recognition of a independent state. Obama has also been credited for taking a tough line with Iran, Israel's arch-enemy.
"No ally is more important than the state of Israel," Obama told attendees at the fundraiser, which brought in at least $300,000 from wealthy donors for his re-election bid and other Democratic campaigns.
Friday, December 02, 2011
Reuters and Israel Hayom Staff
Posted by GS Don Morris, Ph.D./Chana Givon at 1:31 PM