I will continue to be critical of policies with which I disagree and supportive of policies with which I agree, without regard to the political affiliation of the president. I will vote for the presidential candidate who I believe is best for America and for the world, and in making that calculation I will consider their policies toward Israel because I believe that strong support for Israel’s security is good for America and for the world. And I will try my best to see that support for Israel’s security remains a bipartisan issue, despite destructive efforts of some to make such support a wedge issue and the election a referendum that Israel could lose.
Solway: As I wrote in 2009, commenting on Professor Dershowitz’s well-publicized debate with Melanie Philips, who had expressed her suspicions regarding President Obama’s intentions toward Israel, it is hard to believe how erudite intellectuals ho write with precision, flair, and lucidity can nevertheless lend their support to Barack Obama.
Professor Dershowitz argued then, and does so now, that Israel should not be allowed to become a “wedge issue” in the upcoming elections. But as I contended then, and do so now, he appears unwilling to recognize, as Philips did, that support for Israel does not divide along the right-left axis but is primarily a moral issue. Israel already has considerable bipartisan support. What is needed is not more subtle argumentation to justify the president’s volatile strategy for resolving the Middle East imbroglio or a sagacious caution to avoid polarization. What is needed is realism. Tactical prudence, as Jews above all people might have learned by now, is not always effective against a determined adversary.
What is all too readily papered over is that Obama’s reneging on the settlement consensus worked out between Israel and the former American administration, his patently skewed Cairo address that equated the Holocaust with Palestinian suffering and tellingly ignored the historical and continued presence of the Jewish people in the Holy Land, his appointing manifestly anti-Israeli figures like Susan Rice and Samantha Power to positions of official eminence, his well-attested friendships with the virulently anti-Semitic pastor Jeremiah Wright and former PLO spokesman Rashid Khalidi, and his studious avoidance of Israel during his presidential junkets — all this and more does not seem to have had the slightest impact on those of the president’s supporters who affect to be pro-Israel.
Further, there is more at stake than the question of Israel, grave as that might be. I would argue—and have on many occasions on this site and others—that Obama is bad for America, as I briefly tried to indicate in the original article to which Professor Dershowitz has replied. And yet, I cannot see that he has dealt with any of the specific points I made there or countered my arguments, but has merely stated a rather general position. This is unfortunate. For the issue that should concern all of us, whether we are pro-Israel or not, is that a president who has estranged his allies, “reached out” to self-declared enemies, alarmingly inflated the American debt, relied on executive privilege to suppress critical intelligence (“Fast and Furious”), bypassed Congress in his Libyan adventure, subsidized unsustainable Green energy projects at enormous and unrecoverable cost to the taxpayer (Solyndra, etc.), brought legal suit under the auspices of his Department of Justice against states intent on rationalizing voter rolls and trying to control illegal immigration, and engaged in a policy of redistributionist economics that has failed wherever it has been tried—among many other such transgressions—such a president is a national disaster.
It is not only the future of Israel which is in the crosshairs. It is the destiny of a great republic that is being decided. Professor Dershowitz and I will disagree with respect to what is best for Israel and for America. Such disagreement is entirely legitimate. I would emphasize only, in pursuing the debate, we should scrupulously examine all the evidence that is available to us.
Dershowitz: No president has ever satisfied me with regard to his policies toward Israel. Every president has refused to do the right thing when it comes to recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. There may be room for disagreement about some parts of Jerusalem that were captured by Israel during its defensive war with Jordan, but there is no room for disagreement about the status of West Jerusalem, where the Knesset, the Israeli Supreme Court, the Prime Minister’s office, and the President’s residence have always been located. I have been and will remain critical of any president who wrongly believes that recognizing West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and placing our embassy there will make it more difficult to achieve peace.
I have also disagreed with presidents, both Republican and Democrat, who have suggested that Israel’s settlement policy is the major barrier to peace between Israel and the Palestinians. The major barrier has always been, and remains, the Palestinians’ unwillingness to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people, to renounce their absurd claim to a so-called “right of return,” and to accept reasonable offers from Israel regarding the borders of the West Bank. Though I oppose Israel’s settlement policy on democratic grounds, I insist that the continuing occupation is largely the result of Palestinian refusal to accept the reasonable compromises offered by Israel. At bottom, therefore, this dispute is more about land than it is about human rights, because the Palestinians can secure their human rights by being willing to compromise over land, as the Jews did both in 1938, when they accepted the Peel Commission Report, and in 1948 when they accepted the UN Partition Plan.
There have been better and worse presidents when it comes to Israel, some of the best have been Republicans, as have some of the worst. Some of the best have been Democrats, as have been some of the worst. No president has been perfect, and no president has been perfectly bad. (Though Eisenhower may have come close.)
Most presidents have had mixed records. President Reagan, for example, who is often put forward as the model of a pro-Israel president, voted to condemn Israel for its proper decision to bomb the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981. And President Carter, the model of an anti-Israel president, helped bring about a old peace with Egypt.
I approve of President Obama’s policies on the rights of women, gays and racial and religious minorities. I support his health care bill, his approach to immigration, the environment and taxes, and his judicial appointments. If I believed that his foreign policies endangered Israel’s security, that would weigh heavily on my decision how to vote. But I believe that there would be no major differences between a President Obama and a President Romney when it comes to Israel’s security.
I will continue to be critical of policies with which I disagree, without regard to the political affiliation of the president. And I will try my best to see that support for Israel’s security remains a bipartisan issue, despite the well-intentioned but misguided efforts of some to make such support a wedge issue and the election a referendum that Israel could lose.
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