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‎3 comments on the GOP hammering Obama on Israel

by Shmuel Rosner

August 30, 2012 | 4:03 am

Republican vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan at the party's national convention in Tampa, Florida, August 29, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

‎1.‎

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”.‎

‎2.‎

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. ‎

‎3.‎

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 .  ‎

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