Foreign Policy Blogs

Israelis Show the Truth about Obama


Up until President Obama touched down in Tel Aviv earlier this week, the headlines roared for years
about new tensions between the United States and Israel, not to mention the sour relationship between bout countries’ head of state.

During the last U.S. election, Republicans and their sympathetic pundits branded the incumbent president as one of the most anti-Israel American leaders of all time. They further extended the anti-Israel mantel onto the entire Democratic party. As evidence, we heard time and time again that President Obama has not taken a hard line against Iran, the administration does not sufficiently recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, and Republicans are the only saving grace to continued U.S. support for the Jewish state.

Despite all this dominating the news cycle for the better part of four years, President Obama was greeted with open arms, captivating the hearts and minds of the Israeli people and heralded as a one of the greatest friends to Israel of all time.

Israel’s top leaders from President Shimon Peres, a long-time peace process proponent, to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanayhu, the leader of a Israel’s right-wing bloc on-and-off for two decades, all welcomed President Obama and repeatedly expressed their thanks to him.

From the ceremonial welcome at Ben Gurion Airport to the departure to Jordan, President Obama and his Israeli counterparts acted like best friends reunited for their twentieth (…to be nice…) high school reunion. President Obama joked about a hit Israeli television show and fluidly—albeit not flawlessly—spoke a few meaningful Hebrew phrases.

Israelis are very in touch politically and are not, as demonstrated by President Obama’s Jerusalem speech heckler, not wary of voicing their views.

Therefore, either the perception of Obama as anti-Israel was pure hogwash or it’s truly amazing what a warm smile and a few good jokes can do. It’s a combination of both.

Both President Obama and Israel’s leaders had to show a unified front. President Obama just faced a somewhat tough reelection fight and a damaging effort to confirm a new defense secretary that many think is not pro-Israel. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Netanyahu cobbled together a coalition, that includes the Yesh Atid party, which represent many young Israeli voters that are not as anti-Obama as the constituents of some of the other parties. Maintaining that coalition, given how difficult it was to assemble, will require some politicking by Prime Minister Netanyahu, whose outward hostility toward President Obama during the last term was not terribly welcomed in Israel. Lastly, as a potential war with Iran brews, the United States and Israel must showcase a uniform front.

More importantly, the policies—and not the rhetoric—of both President Obama and congressional Democrats demonstrate their views on Israel, and there has been nothing but support for the Jewish state.

Prominently, the United States throughout Obama’s tenure has committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the development of the Iron Dome missile defense system, which has saved countless lives as terrorists in the Gaza strip lob rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians in southern—and increasingly central—part of the country.

On Iran, the United States has helped promulgate tough sanctions that have demonstrated significant impacts on the Iranian economy. Militarily, the United States has dispatched more forces to the region, allegedly helped engineer a debilitating computer virus to destroy Iranian computers, and President Obama has indicated that an Iranian nuclear weapons program is unacceptable. Only time will tell if the United States follows through with military attack, but President Obama has indicated that he does not “bluff.”

With Jerusalem, the United States policy has been the same for several presidential administrations under both parties. Yet, some build a false case that somehow President Obama is changing U.S. policy.

The list goes on and on. President Obama and the Democrats continue to support Israel—in some unprecedented ways—yet some distort this record.

President Obama may have been vilified in some American circles for being anti-Israel, but the Israeli people reflected the true nature of the relationship.

As Shimon Peres said at the outset of the visit: “Mr. President, Wherever you go in our land, you will meet the friendship and warmth of the people of Israel. The people of Israel want you to feel at home. Welcome home Mr. President.”




Ben Moscovitch

Ben Moscovitch is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter and has covered Congress, homeland security, and health care. He completed an intensive two-year Master's in Middle Eastern History program at Tel Aviv University, where he wrote his thesis on the roots of Palestinian democratic reforms. Ben graduated from Georgetown University with a BA in English Literature. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. Twitter follow: @benmoscovitch

Areas of Focus:
Middle East; Israel-Palestine; Politics