Obama & Israel: Obama Plays Victim, Again
When all else fails, play the victim.
Fresh off his “I’m insulted” campaign against Israel’s prime minister speaking to Congress, President Obama is rolling out the victim shtick again, this time to try to intimidate Israel and American Jews over his Iran capitulation.
The president told The New York Times on April 4 that his disagreement with Israel “has been as hard as anything I do….It’s been a hard period.” Why has all his bullying of Israel been so tough on Mr. Obama? “Because of the deep affinities that I feel for the Israeli people and for the Jewish people,” he explained. That’s right–some of his best friends are Jews.
“It has been personally difficult for me to hear…expressions that somehow…this administration has not done everything it could to look out for Israel’s interest,” the deeply wounded and profoundly insulted president complained to the Times.
It’s been less than two months since the Obama White House last tried this approach. Lacking any substantive arguments, they tried to cow Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel his planned speech to Congress by spreading the notion that Netanyahu had “insulted” President Obama by accepting the invitation.
The president even stooped so low as to exploit the Congressional Black Caucus to turn it from an “insult” to a “racial insult.” Emerging from a carefully-choreographed meeting at the White House, Rep. Hank Johnson said the controversy with Israel’s prime minister actually was “about President Barack Obama being a black man disrespected by a foreign leader.” Congressional Black Caucus chairman Rep. G.K. Butterfield likewise blasted Israel’s leader for supposedly being “disrespectful.” And Rep. Greg Meeks chimed in that Netanyahu’s decision “is an insult to the president of the United States.”
The irony was rich. Insults? How about distributing a photo of yourself with your feet on your desk, and letting it be known that it was taken while you were talking on the phone to Israel’s prime minister? How about getting up in the middle of a meeting with the prime minister of Israel and telling him to wait (for more than an hour) while you go eat dinner with Michelle and the girls?
How about complaining to the president of France, in front of a live microphone, that you are burdened with “having to deal with” Netanyahu? How about your senior aides telling journalists that Prime Minister Netanyahu is comparable to chicken excrement? Now, those are genuine insults.
In one respect, the first “I’m insulted” campaign was a failure: Netanyahu spoke to Congress anyway, and received repeated, prolonged standing ovations from both sides of the aisle.
So why would Obama and his advisers resort to the same failed strategy?
Because in another respect, the “I’m insulted” argument worked: it intimidated American Jews. The vast majority of leaders of American Jewish organizations refused to explicitly or vigorously support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s acceptance of the invitation. And several, such as Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League and Rick Jacobs of the Union for Reform Judaism, even publicly opposed Netanyahu. That was a huge victory for Obama.
The White House calculated that most American Jews would be nervous about appearing to insult the president–and would be especially nervous if the Congressional Black Caucus claimed that supporting Netanyahu was a racist insult.
So here comes the Victim Strategy, Part Two. Poor President Obama: he has such “affinity” for Jews, yet those ingrates are making it so “hard” on him, even making it “personally difficult” for him, by daring to wonder if the Iran capitulation might endanger Israel.
American Jewish leaders did not acquit themselves admirably during the conflict over Netanyahu’s speech. Now they are being tested again. And this test is even more interesting, because it’s not Obama versus Netanyahu. Israeli Labor Party leader Yitzhak Herzog is publicly supporting Netanyahu against the Iran capitulation. So it’s really Obama versus Israel. How will Jewish leaders respond?
Moshe Phillips is president and Benyamin Korn is chairman of the Religious Zionists of Philadelphia, and both are current candidates on the Religious Zionist slate (www.VoteTorah.org) in the World Zionist Congress elections.