During the final debate, President Obama pointed to his 2008 pre-election visit to Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, as an answer to Governor Romney’s criticism of his foreign policy on Israel. That same stop was made by over a million visitors and hundreds of world leaders and dignitaries the same year. Invoking it as a means to establish the President’s pro-Israel credentials is an insult to the intelligence of voters who care about the welfare of the Jewish state.
The president’s move is reminiscent of a similar game played by the United Nations. The organization trashes the state of Israel 364 days a year, and pauses on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp on January 27th for an “International Day of Commemoration.”
Undoubtedly, keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive is a service not only to Jews but to anyone interested in preserving and protecting universal human rights and freedoms.
But the question before American voters, who value our special bond with the Middle East’s only democracy, is whether the specifics of the president’s four-year record are consistent with the well-being of the people who live and breathe Jewish self-determination as a bulwark against modern anti-semitism.
Just a partial rap-sheet speaks for itself.
President Obama has never visited Israel during his time in office, despite having been as close as thirty minutes away in Egypt, and managing to go to Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Iraq.
President Obama told Jewish leaders in July 2009 that he was deliberately adopting a policy of putting daylight between America and Israel.
President Obama has legitimized the UN body most responsible for demonizing Israel as the world’s worst human rights violator. The president joined the UN Human Rights Council in 2009 and is now seeking a second 3-year term, despite Israel’s requests that he do the opposite.
President Obama made Israeli settlements the key stumbling block in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Starting in 2009 he chose to castigate Israel publicly, often, and in extreme terms at the General Assembly and the Security Council. The Palestinians took the president’s cue and ended direct negotiations until such time as Israel capitulates, even though the subject is supposed to be a final status issue.
President Obama treated Israel’s Prime Minister to a series of insulting snubs during his visit to the White House in March 2010.
President Obama cut a deal with Islamic states at a May 2010 meeting of parties to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, contrary to assurances given to Israel. He agreed to help convene a 2012 international conference intended to pivot attention towards disarming Israel and is currently negotiating the details of this diplomatic onslaught.
President Obama introduced in his September 2010 address to the General Assembly, a September 2011 timeline for full Palestinian statehood and membership in the UN, thus encouraging Palestinians to push the same unilateral move.
President Obama suggested in May 2011 that Israel use the 1967 borders as a starting point for negotiations – knowing full well that Israel considers those borders to be indefensible, and that agreements require the border issue to be determined by the parties themselves.
President Obama created a “global counter-terrorism forum” in September 2011 and invited eleven Muslim states to join – on the grounds that they were “on the front lines in the struggle against terrorism.” At the insistence of Turkey, he then denied entry to Israel.
President Obama told French President Nicolas Sarkozy in November 2011 – when he thought he was off-mike – that he regretted having to deal with Israel’s Prime Minister.
President Obama asked Congress in February 2012 to waive a ban on American funding of UNESCO. The ban had been imposed following UNESCO’s recognition of Palestinian statehood and was consistent with U.S. law denying funding for any international organization that recognized Palestinian statehood in the absence of a peace agreement with Israel.
President Obama has indeed put daylight between American and Israeli policy on Iran. In August, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Dempsey said: “our clocks are ticking at different paces” and he wouldn’t be “complicit” in an Israeli effort to destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities.
In September Secretary Clinton explained this divergence. In her words, the Iranian threat is “existential” only for Israel; only Israel is “right in the bull’s eye.” President Obama’s “pro-Israel” policy, therefore, is to wait past the point that the intended victim of the planned genocide believes is safe.
President Obama denied Prime Minister Netanyahu’s request to meet with him in September, despite the Iranian peril.
President Obama’s UN ambassador, Susan Rice, didn’t even attend the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech to the UN General Assembly in September – during which he made a plea for global attention to the Iranian threat.
And on Monday night, at the final debate, Governor Romney answered the question he was asked about what poses the greatest threat to our national security with “a nuclear Iran,” while President Obama responded “terrorist networks.”
Iran is the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. An Iranian nuclear weapon will result in a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world. And it will make the chance of nuclear weapons ending up in the hands of terrorists all the more likely.
It isn’t hard to figure out which man will better partner with Israel to combat anti-semitism today and ensure that the lesson of Yad Vashem is more than a glib debating point.
Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.