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Obama and Israel: Matt Duss

Obama’s record is strong, he says, but the president needs to sell it better

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President Obama last week.(Kevin Lamarque-Pool/Getty Images)

If you’re a Scroll regular, you’ll have noticed a pet theory of mine cropping up recently. Basically, it goes like this: Obama’s handling of Israel will be a not-insignificant issue in the presidential election, not exclusively among Jews (though certainly among them), nor exclusively among Jews and Zionist Christians (though their footprint is certainly an effective force multiplier), but among everyone. What will happen, I believe, is that the Republican candidate will point to Israel (partly because he or she won’t be able to point to experience, or Al Qaeda, or Iraq, or China, or Cuba) to paint President Obama in the same colors that every Republican has painted every Democrat since the Vietnam War: weak on America’s enemies, disloyal to America’s friends, and out-of-step with American values. That Obama has done a poor job convincing Jews otherwise—as we are soon to see when Democrat David Weprin either loses or barely wins his special election against Republican Bob Turner in large part for the sin of being in the same party as Obama—will be a crucial part of the proof the GOP candidate will build.

So this week seems like a good time to talk to a few people about this. At noon, we heard from Tevi Troy, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and author of the Tablet Magazine article that predicted the contours of the Weprin-Turner race, right down to Ed Koch’s involvement. Now, we speak with Matt Duss, of the Center for American Progress.

Do you think we could see Israel becoming an electoral issue beyond the Jewish vote? That it will become something of a totem, or stand-in, for Obama’s values?
I think that’s true, and that probably more importantly it’s clear that the Republicans are pumping a lot of money into making that true. Groups like [the Emergency Committee for Israel] are one example. There’s been a concerted effort to attack Obama on the Israel issue—we saw this around Netanyahu’s visit in May–going after him for supposedly being not as supportive as past presidents have.

Is it working?
When you keep repeating these things—and I think the administration has been less energetic and timely in pushing back on it than they should have been–yeah, some of it is getting some traction. Now, once they start talking about the record–the military support, the intelligence cooperation, and Israelis themselves have acknowledged that it’s deeper than it’s ever been—what you’re left with is the settlement issue, this idea that by calling on Israel to follow up on obligations which it had already made—in the Quartet road map—on a settlement freeze, the idea that simply by calling for Israel to meet its already existing commitments is preposterous.

Does the Christian right’s fervent adoption of Israel as a cause play a role?
I think it does—the whole CUFI thing [Christians United for Israel]. Over the past couple decades, we’ve been seeing a relationship, Likudniks building bridges with these very right-wing evangelical groups. Hagee being the most famous.

So it makes sense that it would become a national issue.
For obvious reasons, it’s an issue that has specific weight and has obvious resonance among the American Jewish community, but it’s more broadly an American issue—they are an ally, a democracy. I think America should have relationships with democracies and support them. But Israeli policies impact American interests, and there’s no question about that. I think it’s an issue of U.S. foreign policy, full stop.

Is Israel the clearest instance of a foreign policy issue where the Republican nominee could gain real traction?
I think Iran is another main one, and there Israel provides an entry. It’s clear that Israel, for very understandable reasons, is very concerned about Iran. But again here we come back to the significant support that Obama has given to the Iran issue. Israelis and American defense officials will only smile at you, but it’s pretty clear Stuxnet was a cooperative effort. It’s just another way to slow and frustrate the development of the program.

Look at the Iran policy. If the engagement didn’t achieve an agreement, I think they should keep that option open, because it had demonstrable consequences—with the sanctions. The pressure track is most effective when it’s combined with an offer of diplomacy at the same time, and it brought a very significant level of international focus—you even had the Chinese pulling out of some deals!

What can Obama do to shore himself up here?
There are various tactical criticisms you could make about the way he went for the settlement freeze. One thing he just really failed to do is really make a concerted effort to reach out to Israelis. I think that’s very important. There is a relationship between the Israeli people and the American people. It is very real. It’s something I would have expected he would have done, and I was disappointed. Go there, introduce himself, explain himself. He didn’t really do that. I don’t know how much of that ground he can really make up.

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This is insane. How much did George Soros – the Nazi banker and Obama’s primary financial supporter – pay CAP for this?

Obama spent 20 years in a psychotic “church” dedicated to the genocide of every Jew in Israel. Rev. Jeremiah Wright repeats constantly that during the fifth year of the Obama administration, he will show his true colors.

There hasn’t been any “failure to communicate”. Certainly Obama’s co-religionists* in the Dar al-Islam understand him perfectly.

Ask the Fogel family hy”d about Obama’s policies.

(* oh yeah? What church does he pray at? Does he believe Mohammed was a prophet? So in what way is he ‘Christian’?)

You owe it to your listeners to explain that Matt Duss is paid by Obama’s financial backer, George Soros.

There’s nothing wrong with advocating for the Hungarian billionaire, but your listeners deserve to know who’s paying the piper.

Shalom Freedman says:

. The Obama Administration has been good on certain security questions. But it has from the beginning showed a support of Israel publicly that has been reluctant and begrudging. It foolishly made the ‘settlement issue’ the heart of the conflict when the heart of the conflict historically has been, and still is the Arab and Islamic reluctance to live in peace, harmony, cooperation and good will with a Jewish state. It has broadcast a message of dislike for Prime Minister Netanyahu which is of course seconded loudly by the NYTimes and other Liberal Media. It has failed completely in its relation to the Palestinians, causing them if possible to become even more extreme and outrageous in their demands. The Obama Administration has taken the Arab position on sixty- seven lines, but when doing this did not even do what is the most minimal of minimal measures necessary for Israel, insist that the Palestinian demand to flood Israel with the third and fourth – generation descendants of the 48′ refugees
is a non- starter.
At present the Obama Adminstration is silent on the war- threats being made by Erdogan. It has in effect not succeeded in halting the greatest danger to world – peace the Iranian nuclear threat. This is a genocidal threat in regard to Israel.
There is so so much more that the Obama Administration could have done to support Israel, and so – so- much more it could have done to strengthen the U.S. position around the world.
More importantly his second term will be one in which restraints from the Congress are less. Instinctively President Obama sympathizes more with the Palestinians. They are the third- world darlings for him. In a second- term those vital vetoes at the U.N. will be hung over Israel’s head as threats.Withdraw or be totally isolated. Given the recidivist nature of the other side this promises not peace but increased danger to Israel.

Can’t he stop lying? Israel had never accepted the “roadmap” demand to cease all construction in the settlements, moreso in Jerusalem. That was one of the explicit reservations published by the Sharon government. The compromise that Sharon and Bush agreed on spoke about the “territorial” freeze – that is, no more new settlements or new build-up areas, but natural growth within the current limits. Jerusalem was omitted entirely. So Obama’s demand for a full freeze was NOT self-evident, but a clear break with previous American policy in disregard of the Israeli position that did not change since the roadmap was published. Matt Duss is an agitator for the Palestinians, not objective observer.

RachelZimmerman says:

Why does Obama need to see his record on Israel. That seems to be the problem these days. Obama needs to focus on American issues. Jewish Americans will find themselves targeted if Israel continues to take center stage in the political arena while the lower classes continue to struggle.


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Obama and Israel: Matt Duss

Obama’s record is strong, he says, but the president needs to sell it better

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