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Steve Sheffey’s Pro-Israel Political Update: Israel and Monday’s Foreign Policy Debate

Israel and Monday’s Foreign Policy Debate

 

This newsletter is a bit longer than usual, but the topic is critically important. If you will be watching the upcoming Monday night foreign policy debate for clues about where President Obama and Mitt Romney stand on Israel, please take the time to read this newsletter, click the links that interest you, and share this newsletter with your friends. This newsletter is packed with great information.

 

With the election only three weeks away, the Romney campaign has violated a key tenet of pro-Israel advocacy: Support for Israel is and must remain bipartisan. His arguments against President Obama are based on distortions and outright lies.

 

Romney’s claim that President Obama went on an “apology tour” is false.

 

Romney’s claim that President Obama “threw Israel under the bus” reveals an astonishing ignorance of President Obama’s record on Israel.

 

Far from resisting or opposing sanctions, President Obama has imposed the toughest sanctions ever imposed on Iran, and has rallied an unprecedented international coalition against Iran.

 

President Obama never spoke of the need to create “daylight” between the US and Israel. In fact, Israeli leaders confirm that under President Obama, the degree of military and intelligence cooperation between the US and its “closest ally in the region” (in President Obama’s words) is unprecedented.

 

Romney’s politicizing of the Libya tragedy is collapsing on itself; yesterday the LA Times reported that there is no evidence of Al Qaeda participation and theWashington Post reported that CIA documents support Susan Rice’s initial account of the attack. Romney’s attacks are also hypocritical, especially given Romney’s own statements in defense of the Bush administration after 9/11.

 

You can read the details, plus more (including a summary of the President’s record and information about a Romney campaign group that includes critics of Israel and opponents of Iran sanctions) below.

 

Friends,

 

The final debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney will be Monday, October 22. The topic is foreign policy. I might live-tweet the debate if I get ten or more new followers between now and then, so follow me @stevesheffey if you don’t already.

 

There was only one foreign policy question asked during Tuesday’s debate. Romney took advantage of the opportunity not only to get his facts wrong on Libya, but to restate his favorite catch-phrases about the President’s foreign policy. Let’s get a few things straight:

 

Using Israel as a political football is unacceptable. Dan Gelbar summed it up perfectly:

 

No less an authority than Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak called President Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security “all-encompassing and unprecedented.” Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon pronounced, “we have no better friend than President Obama.”

 

How do you reconcile these unequivocal statements of support by those most knowledgeable about Israel’s security with the television commercials Floridians are hearing this campaign season? How does Mitt Romney claim Obama has “put Israel under the bus” while former Israeli Mossad Director Efraim Halevy says Obama has shown “leadership of historic dimension?” How does the Republican Party run commercials suggesting Obama is a danger to Israel, when Israeli President Shimon Peres calls him “a great friend of Israel?”

 

In a word: Politics.

With the election just weeks away and Romney hoping to reverse his fortunes, the Republicans have begun a totally fabricated drumbeat that Obama is bad for Israel. It is an argument based in part on distortion, in part on the fact that the Internet has no truth key, and in part on fear – and yes, prejudice.

 

But these political attacks are false in every way.

 

Read all of Gelbar’s article here.  If you still have even the slightest concerns, read this excellent article by Professor Steven Spiegel that appeared in the Times of Israel on October 19. It’s a must-read.

 

Ofer Bavley, the director general of the JUF Israel Office, writes that

 

Our alliance is based on shared values: democracy, individual freedoms, respect for human rights and the rule of law. This bond is neither a Republican nor a Democrat invention. It connects our two countries in a network of common interests that transcend party politics. Both parties have placed Israel at the top of their agenda whenever they were in power, at the White House or in Congress.

 

Ofer concludes that

 

By using Israel as a wedge issue in U.S. elections, Israel loses its bipartisan place and becomes “another election topic.” By debating Israel, it ceases being a bipartisan point of consensus, it becomes a tool in a battle for votes and in the long run, as part of a political debate, Israel might lose some of the support it now enjoys with both parties. The danger is that Israel might become closely associated with one party or the other. Never mind a presidential term of four years, we can’t even afford to be in the political wilderness for one session of congress.

 

Bipartisan support for ever-strengthening American-Israeli relations is also cardinal if we wish to strengthen deterrence against our common enemies. They need to understand that no President and no party are “anti-Israel,” that all parties and all candidates stand strongly on the side of Israeli-U.S. relations as a matter of national interest.

 

No matter who Americans vote for in the coming elections, Israelis know that the U.S. and Israel will stand firmly together. Let us hope that support for Israel is kept in everyone’s heart-and out of the political debate.

 

President Obama never went on an apology tour. Politifact awarded Romney a “Pants on Fire” rating for his absurd claim that President Obama went on an apology tour. Here is what Politifact concluded:

 

Once again, Romney has accused Obama of beginning his presidency “with an apology tour.”

Our reviews of Obama’s 2009 foreign travels and speeches showed no such thing. While he criticized past U.S. actions, such as torture practices at Guantanamo, he did not offer one apology.

It’s ridiculous to call Obama’s foreign visits and remarks “an apology tour.” We rate this statement Pants on Fire!

 

The Washington Post awarded Romney four Pinocchios (the maximum) for the same claim.

 

Romney and Ryan’s claim that President Obama resisted the sanctions imposed by Congress is wrong.  Politifact rated the claim “mostly false” instead of “false” because, in its words, Ryan employed a “sliver of truth in service of a misleading impression.” Here is the reality:

 

Michael Levi of the Council on Foreign Relations, an independent, nonpartisan think-tank,  told PolitiFact earlier this year that[Obama’s pushback against Congress was] not evidence the Obama administration had a weak stance on Iran, it’s just that Obama resisted letting Congress dictate the terms.

“Flexibility is the watchword,” he said. “It’s really hard to argue that this administration hasn’t brought strong pressure to bear on Iran.”…

 

James Jeffrey, a deputy national security adviser in the Bush administration and ambassador to Iraq and Turkey under Obama, said this kind of back-and-forth between Congress and the executive branch happens all the time. Congress wants to exert unilateral pressure, and the executive needs room for diplomacy with its allies.

You could just as easily characterize what Ryan calls watering down as the Obama team “strengthening the ability to enforce” sanctions against Iran, he said.

In fact, the United States and European Union, among others, are now putting so much economic pressure on the country that “many judge that Iran might soon decide it needs a nuclear compromise to produce an easing of sanctions,” according to the Congressional Research Service’s September report.

 

In other words, it was never about President Obama’s commitment to Iran
sanctions. As Ron Kampeas wrote, it was about the executive prerogative, stupid.

 

President Obama never spoke of the need to create daylight between the US and Israel. You can search all you want, but you’ll never find President Obama saying that. What you will find are people who claim they heard from anonymous sources that the President said that in a closed-door meeting with American Jewish leaders. But read this from Nancy Ratzan, the immediate past-president of the National Council of Jewish Women, who was there:

 

For many elections we have seen various attempts to peel off the traditionally Democratic Jewish vote. The recently released video “Perilous Times” is perhaps the most insidious and misleading effort to date to use propaganda to divide the Jewish community. The video is designed to make Jewish voters feel insecure about President Obama’s commitment to Israel by distorting and misappropriating the truth about the president’s and, indeed, America’s, unwavering alliance with Israel.

 

Early in the video the narrator alleges that when President Obama met in a private meeting with Jewish leaders in June of 2009, there was “stunned silence” as the president spoke about his administration’s vision regarding the Middle East.

 

I was one of the Jewish leaders in that meeting. I remember precisely what happened; it was not as represented in this video.

 

The truth is that President Obama spent an hour with 16 Jewish leaders from a wide spectrum of the American Jewish community. We dialogued with the president about ensuring the security of Israel, plans for advancing peace in the Middle East and strategies for ending Iran’s growing nuclear capacity.

 

The president was clear, unequivocal and passionate. The president articulated that he and his administration are resolutely committed to the security and safety of Israel, to the survival of Israel as the Jewish homeland, and to the pursuit of sustainable peace in the Middle East, a peace that secures Israel.

 

I, along with many other Jewish leaders, left that meeting confident about President Obama’s commitment to Israel and promising vision for moving towards peace in the region. I left a proud American and a secure Jew.

 

President Obama has called Israel America’s “closest ally in the region.” It’s amazing that this was even questioned in the first place.  Click herefor just a few examples.

 

Romney’s politicizing of the Libya attacks are factually wrong and hypocritical. The Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that “the assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi last month appears to have been an opportunistic attack rather than a long-planned operation, and intelligence agencies have found no evidence that it was ordered by Al Qaeda.”

 

Also yesterday, the Washington Post reported that CIA documents supported Susan Rice’s description of the Benghazi attacks.

 

In other words, Romney’s opportunistic attempts to exploit the tragedy for political gain were, surprise, surprise, not based on facts. As John Marshall concludes after reviewing the facts, “only in the final weeks of a presidential campaign, with one candidate desperate for an America under siege Carteresque tableau to play against, would this ever remotely have been treated like a scandal or cover up. A bunch of reporters basically got played and punk’d.” Read Marshall’s article here.

 

Romney’s attacks are also hypocritical. There were 12 embassy attacks during the Bush administration, but Romney never said a word. One of the worst attacks on Americans on foreign soil, the Beirut bombing, occurred on Reagan’s watch.

 

And in 2004,”Romney was asked to address the 9/11 Commission’s finding of serious intelligence failures on the part of the US government in the run-up to the attacks. He responded that it is easy, but ultimately not particularly helpful, to blame different parts of the government for the attack.” Read the details here.

 

It’s ironic, if not hypocritical, that many of the Republicans now complaining the loudest voted to cut funds for diplomatic security.

 

Another tangible sign of the unprecedented level of military and intelligence cooperation between the US and Israel: This week, Israeli and US military forces will participate in the largest ever joint missile defense exercise of its kind.

 

Another example of the double-standard applied to President Obama.I’ve written previously about the double-standard some of our Republican friends apply to President Obama when it comes to Israel.  And as Meir Shalev wrote, if President Obama treated Israel the way Reagan did, Obama would be impeached.

 

Now we’ve found out that the Romney campaign’s recently-formed “Arab-Americans for Romney” committee includes several staunch critics of Israel and opponents of Iran sanctions:

 

“The fact that the Romney folks have an anti-Israel activist like George Salem and a guy like Grover Norquist, who has been widely criticized, including by Republican members of congress, for long standing ties to terrorists and supporters of terrorists groups, affiliated with their campaign is pretty troubling,” said one official with a Jewish organization. “If this were the Obama campaign, you can only imagine the howls of outrage that we would be hearing from Conservatives – and rightly so.”

 

Read the article here.

 

If this is “throwing Israel under the bus,” then we need a lot more buses like this:  President Obama has called for the removal of Syrian President Assad, ordered the successful assassination of Osama bin-Laden, done more than any other president to stop Iran’s illicit nuclear program, restored Israel’s qualitative military edge after years of erosion under the Bush administration, secretly sold Israel the bunker-busting bombs it requested but did not receive during the Bush administration, increased security assistance to Israel to record levels, boycotted Durban II and Durban III, took US-Israel military and intelligence cooperation to unprecedented levels, cast his only veto in the UN against a one-sided anti-Israel Security Council resolution, opposed the Goldstone Report, stood with Israel against the Gaza flotilla, and organized a successful diplomatic crusade against the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state.

 

Want videos?  Please click here for a collection of key videos setting the record straight on President Obama’s support for Israel.

 

Want more facts? The Joint Action Committee for Political Affairs is the most-respected bipartisan pro-Israel PAC in the Chicago area, and is one of the best sources of good information in the country. Read its fact sheet here.

Want to get in the mood for Monday night’s foreign policy debate? Click here for Mitt Romney’s easy five-step approach to foreign policy.

Just for fun…your reward for getting through another newsletter.  Learn the facts about the newest dread disease, Romnesia. The video starts out good and it keeps getting better–the punchline is perfect. Click here.

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Unless explicitly stated otherwise, the views I express in my emails do not necessarily reflect the views of any candidates or organizations that I support or am associated with.

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