Obama’s Chutzpah Is Catching Fire Among Top Jewish Democrats

Originally published in Tikkun Daily |

Last week, President Obama refused to rearrange his schedule in order to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who will be in New York for the U.N. General Assembly in the coming days. And Obama stood defiant when Israeli officials publicly and loudly complained that Netanyahu would not be granted a private meeting with the Commander-in-Chief.

Predictably, Republicans have piled on, with Mitt Romney blasting Obama for not meeting Netanyahu.

With the criticism mounting, and with Netanyahu himself starring in a right-wing political ad in Florida, now is the time Jewish Democrats (even progressives) would typically fold. For when forced to choose between supporting Obama and caving to AIPAC, most leading Jewish Democrats have chosen the latter.

However, not this time. For in the current political environment, Obama’s chutzpah is becoming contagious:

Top Jewish Democrats are standing squarely behind President Obama’s decision not to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and warning Israel to butt out of the U.S. presidential race.

Indeed, Jewish Democratic leaders are coming to the President’s defense in ways that, at least in the contemporary world of Israeli-American politics, seems unprecedented.

Here’s Henry Waxman:

”I don’t think it’s necessary for the president to rearrange his schedule,” Rep. Henry Waxman (Calif.), the top Democrat on the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, told The Hill. ”I didn’t think it was appropriate for the prime minister to publicly get into a dispute with the president of the United States, since we’re both very closely working together to impose sanctions and to force Iran to stop its development of a nuclear weapon.”

And Barney Frank:

”Maybe Netanyahu’s for [Republican candidate Mitt] Romney. And he’s making a mistake if he is,” Frank told The Hill when asked why he thought Israel had leaked the news of a perceived ”snub” to the Reuters wire service.

”I think it was unwise for him to do as much,” he said. ”I think they’ve pulled back a little bit.’

”I think Obama played it right,” Frank added. ”The Israelis have to consider American public opinion; America’s not ready to go to war until it’s absolutely necessary.

Here’s Eliot Engel, a leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, dismissing Netanyahu’s ploy:

”There are always things that are done on both sides – with us, with the Israelis – for domestic political consumption, for party-building,” Engel told The Hill.

The tone coming from the other side of the aisle is markedly different, as Republicans seek to take advantage of Obama’s strength by turning it on its head. To wit, here is the text of a letter signed by 128 House Republicans:

”We are astounded by your refusal to grant this request to one of our closest allies at such a critical time for that region…The rejection of this request represents disturbing treatment of a vital partner and illustrates a lack of regard for the indispensable relationship between the United States and Israel and the current dynamics in the region which are essential to our national security.”

Astounded!is the GOP’s faux response.

Jewish Democrats, on the other hand?

Not so much. Not this time.


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 September 27, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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