“If Obama Treated Israel Like Reagan Did, He’d be Impeached.”

Cross-posted from Daily Kos

The rightward tilt of America’s foreign policy stance toward Israel – which in many ways parallels the Christian right’s co-opting of the GOP – is replete with shameful anecdotal displays.

Sadly, many of them have happened quite recently:

Newt Gingrich, in an effort to bulk up his “pro-Israel” credentials, calling Palestinians an “invented people” who want to destroy Israel.

Mitt Romney, in a similar effort, claiming President Obama threw Israel “under the bus” for articulating long-standing U.S. policy with regard to peace negotiations being based upon 1967 borders.

Congress, during a rare speech by Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, giving Israel’s leader standing ovations for effectively signaling the end of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Such moments almost make one forget that, thirty years ago, a man now revered by the right as a staunch friend of Israel – Ronald Reagan – engaged in foreign policy decisions that today would lead to apoplectic bouts of rage both real and manufactured. Decisions that, if made by Obama today, would lead to reactions too bombastic to contemplate.

This is what Chemi Shalev argues in a recent op-ed in Haaretz entitled, “If Obama Treated Israel Like Reagan Did, He’d be Impeached.” Here is how he begins a piece I highly recommend be read in its entirety:

Imagine if Israel would launch a successful preemptive strike against a country that is building a nuclear bomb that threatens its very existence, and the American president would describe it as “a tragedy.”And then, not only would the U.S. administration fail to “stand by its ally,” as Republicans pledged this week, but it would actually lend its hand to a UN Security Council decision that condemns Israel, calls on it to place its nuclear facilities under international supervision and demands that it pay reparations (!) for the damage it had wrought.

And then, to add insult to injury, the U.S. president would impose an embargo on further sales of F-16 aircraft because Israel had “violated its commitment to use the planes only in self-defense.”

Shalev is referencing Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak Nuclear Research Facility in 1981 as well as some of the Reagan administration’s reactions to it. Indeed, it was a bombing raid that America’s Ambassador to the U.N. compared to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. Did you catch that? He compared Israeli aggression to a Soviet action. During the Cold War.

Compare that to what happened last week when America’s envoy to Belgium, Howard Gutman – a Jew and child of Holocaust survivors – said the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was breeding a new type of anti-Semitism. He was attacked for being anti-Semitic himself, and unending calls came for his dismissal.

Even though, thankfully, the Obama administration stood by him, it’s just one more piece of evidence demonstrating how far to the right we’ve moved as a country in 30 years at the leadership level on this issue.

Now, this observation is not intended to be a defense (on my part) of many of President Obama’s policy stances with which I’ve disagreed, particularly the administration’s opposition to Palestine’s bid for statehood at the U.N. and its refusal to hit Israel with real consequences for its continued illegal settlement construction and abuse of nonviolent protesters in the West Bank.

That said, we are at a point where Congress is farther to the right than Israel’s conservative Knesset on some of Israel’s own issues. And we’re talking about a Knesset that can’t move much farther right (though it’s trying).

As Israel continues to come up in GOP debates – as we continue to hear candidates woo the Christian right and the conservative Israel lobby in America (AIPAC) – we’re going to be treated to more bizarre displays and statements.

As we do, it will be instructive to remember that what we’re witnessing is not just the ignorant, bloated pandering of our current, dishonest crop of Republican presidential candidates. It’s the result of a toxic environment in which, with regard to Israel, nobody seems to have the latitude to be honest anymore about anything.


Follow me on Twitter @David_EHG

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About David Harris-Gershon

David Harris-Gershon – a blogger for Tikkun magazine and a freelance writer on Israel, the Middle East and America’s role in the region – has recently published work in The Jerusalem Post, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, AlterNet, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Colorado Review and elsewhere. His memoir – What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill Your Wife? – is forthcoming from Oneworld Publications (2013). He received his MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington, and has worked extensively as an educator, teaching creative writing and Israeli History / Jewish Studies in university and high school classrooms. Follow David on Twitter @David_EHG

Posted on December 13, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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