Brett Stephens is not reassured by President Obama's assurances that he "has Israel's back."
Here is a president who fought tooth-and-nail against the very sanctions on Iran for which he now seeks to reap political credit. He inherited from the Bush administration the security assistance to Israel he now advertises as proof of his "unprecedented" commitment to the Jewish state. His defense secretary has repeatedly cast doubt on the efficacy of a U.S. military option against Iran even as the president insists it remains "on the table." His top national security advisers keep warning Israel not to attack Iran even as he claims not to "presume to tell [Israeli leaders] what is best for them."I was surprised when I heard the audio clip of his proclamation of support (from the rear) should Israel decide to lead where America fails to. It wasn't that he would claim it, but rather that he would do so in such a common, colloquial, and idiomatic way.
"I've got Israel's back"? George Bush used to take a beating for his inarticulateness, whereas Barack Obama is hailed as a great orator. So, how about some elegant words about bending the arc of history, or standing firm with our allies to prevent the expansion of the nuclear fraternity to encompass sworn enemies.
Regardless, Stephens is rightly more concerned about the President's word than with the words he uses to express it.
We also learn that, according to one of Mr. Beinart's sources, longtime diplomat Dennis Ross was brought aboard the Obama campaign as part of what Mr. Beinart calls "Obama's inoculation strategy" to mollify Jewish voters apprehensive about the sincerity of his commitments to Israel. Not surprisingly, Mr. Ross was a marginal figure in the administration before leaving last year...
But the important question here isn't about American-Jewish attitudes toward Israel. It's about the president's honesty. Is he being truthful when he represents himself as a mainstream friend of Israel—or is he just holding his tongue and biding his time? On the evidence of Mr. Beinart's sympathetic book, Mr. Obama's speech at Aipac was one long exercise in political cynicism.When President Obama says he has Israel's back, my advice would be to frisk him for knives. For evidence of the President's trustworthiness and honesty in this regard--and the media's unimpeachable integrity in keeping us apprised of them--I refer to my post of 11/7/11, "Lost in Translation."