President Obama came under attack yesterday for his many sins –as interpreted by GOP candidates – among them the mistreatment of Israel. Senator John McCain, the GOP 2008 candidate, said that the US “can’t afford to cause our friends and allies, from Latin America to Europe to Asia to the Middle East and especially in Israel, a nation under existential threat, to doubt America’s leadership”. Have no doubt: When it comes to the “existential threat” Jerusalem indeed doubts America’s leadership (or, as David Horovitz put it: “Everything you have heard about the personal hostility between Obama and Netanyahu is true, and then some, according to the insiders from both the pro- and anti-Iran strike camps. The prime minister thinks the president is unreliable and misguided on matters Israeli, Middle Eastern and Islamist”). Whether the US can’t afford such doubt is another matter. Condoleezza Rice, in her remarks, also said that ““Our friends and allies must be able to trust us. From Israel to Poland to the Philippines to Colombia and across the world - they must know that we are reliable and consistent and determined”. But she didn’t quite explain why – what might happen if these countries cease to have trust in the US? I must agree with Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin: “She said that under a Romney administration, the United States will remain the most powerful country on Earth but didn’t get into the details of how the former Massachusetts governor would tackle critical challenges such as the crisis in Syria, Iran’s nuclear program, or the Middle East conflict”.
Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations offers some interesting insights about the Israel-related language in the new Republican platform. The paragraph he refers to says this: “The security of Israel is in the vital national security interest of the United States; our alliance is based not only on shared interests, but also shared values. We affirm our unequivocal commitment to Israel’s security and will ensure that it maintains a qualitative edge in military technology over any potential adversaries.”
And Zenko writes:
The phrase “vital national security interest” is a significant upgrade and represents a major shift by the Republican Party. As the 2000 bipartisan Commission on America’s National Interests - which included members such as Condoleezza Rice, John McCain, and Paul Krugman - defined the term, “Vital national interests are conditions that are strictly necessary to safeguard and enhance Americans’ survival and well-being in a free and secure nation.” The commission concluded that “Israel survive as a free state” is a vital national interest, which is a strikingly different statement than the security of Israel. Tellingly, President Obama has never framed the security of Israel in such a way, although he has described resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a “vital national security interest.”
Zenko provides his readers with previous Republican statements on Israel – from 1992 to 2008. Go read them all, they are quite interesting to compare.
I’m not quite sure what it means that “Pro-Israel groups flock to GOP convention”, as Commentary’s blog claims. That the Republican Jewish Coalition is there is no big surprise, and that AIPAC and AJC are there is great – but I’m told that they will also open a shop at the Democratic convention, so the “flocking” has no great political significance and is nothing more than doing one’s job. Contentions’ Alana Goodman is claiming that the GOP is “reportedly” successful in “chipping away at Obama’s Jewish support in Florida”, based on a Politico report to which she links. Alas, Politico says nothing of the sort. In fact, it says the exact opposite. First it quotes a Republican operative (from another Politico report) who is predicting that Obama gets sixty-something percent of the Jewish vote. And then it says: “The kind of erosion Dinerstein is talking about - somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 points in Florida - would be a fairly dramatic swing for any demographic group, let alone one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable blocs. Is it possible? It seems like a stretch…” Namely: no great belief in the “chipping away” theory.
Lesson: Until November, make sure to be a careful reader of agenda-driven blogs. The coming months will make it ever harder for all of us to see reality clearly through the fall campaign fog .