Barack Obama speaking today at the annual AIPAC conference in Washington, DC:
Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels.
That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system. This is a powerful example of American-Israel cooperation which has already intercepted rockets from Gaza and helped saved innocent Israeli lives. So make no mistake, we will maintain Israel’s qualitative military edge.
While spending that actually helps poor people at home in being slashed and programs like Social Security are being eyed for the cutting board, the president of the United States brags — amid an official unemployment level hovering near double digits — that he has increased funding for a wealthy foreign country’s military to record levels. Any commentary on this fact would be superfluous. It speaks for itself.
As Medea Benjamin and I pointed out a few months ago, outside of the odd Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul, Republicans and Democrats — made-for-television shows of partisan squabbling aside — are in complete agreement when it comes to the military-industrial complex in general and Israel in particular. In Congress, the only real debate is over who is more “pro-Israel,” not over whether it’s right to ask struggling Americans to fork over more than $3 billion a year to subsidize another country’s addiction to militarism.
Over at Salon, Glenn Greenwald highlights how delusional are those who believe — or rather, those who say they believe — Obama is an enemy of the Jewish state all because he uttered the same banal talking points as his predecessors about Israel and the “peace process.”
My personal favorite response came from Nevada Democrat Shelley Berkeley, who immediately after the president’s speech last Thursday fired off a statement declaring she was “extremely troubled by President Obama’s call for Israel to ‘act boldly’ for peace.” That, my friends, is how little Obama’s pro-Israel critics have to work with: the mere suggestion that Israel, possibly, maybe, I dunno, could do something to help promote peace is cast as borderline anti-semitic.
Greenwald, however, writes that when it comes to Israel and Palestine, “I think President Obama deserves support and some modest credit.” Why, you might ask?
From the start of his administration — from appointing George Mitchell as his envoy to demanding a settlement freeze in the West Bank — the White House has appeared to recognize that tongue-wagging subservience to the Israeli Government is a counter-productive policy.
I don’t see it. In terms of actual policy, Obama’s approach to Israel has been indistinguishable from that of George W. Bush, who you’ll recall labeled illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank an “impediment to success” in peace negotiations. “The unauthorized outposts, for example, need to be dismantled,” Bush said in 2008.
As Greenwald himself notes, Obama was silent when Israel massacred hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza, silent when Israel slaughtered unarmed activists on the Mahi Marva, and has had his diplomats working overtime at the United Nations to prevent Israel from facing scrutiny for its war crimes during Operation Cast Lead.
I’m not sure why, in light of these his more substantive support for war crimes and “record levels” of support for those who perpetrate we should be giving Obama any credit or support, however modest, for briefly, once upon a time, meekly asking Israel to abide by international law.