Published On: Thu, Jan 19th, 2017

President Barack Obama: Goodbye, Farewell and Amen

US President Obama speaking at the funeral (Photo: AP)

As President Barack Obama prepares to leave office on Friday at 12 noon Eastern Standard Time, we here at Jewish Business News would like to bid him farewell with our blessings. And we mean that sincerely.

If statistics are to be believed, at least half of the people reading this are in shock that we could say this, and the other half will agree with everything we say next. Whatever your personal opinion, please continue to read and please do so with open minds.

It seems clear to any objective political observer that an individual’s opinion as to whether or not President Barack Obama was somehow hostile towards Israel depends on the person’s views on the Mid East conflict. People who support the position held by about half of all Israelis who fall to the left of the center of the nation’s political spectrum – that Israel should pull out of the West Bank, grant the Palestinians independence and at least dismantle some settlements (if not all) — have no problem with President Obama’s Israel policies over the last eight years.

It is the other half of Israelis, and the people in America who support their position, who feel that President Obama has been bad for Israel.

Barack Obama Good for Israel

So why exactly do so many insist that Barack Obama has been bad for Israel?

Israelis on the right of that nation’s political spectrum, who wish to annex all of the Israeli settlements, add more and oppose an independent Palestinian State, obviously dislike Obama. As do the orthodox Jews in America – including the Hasidic and ultra-orthodox communities — who tend to support Israel’s right wing.

The President made his opposition to increased settlement activity in the West Bank as well as his support for a two state solution to the conflict clear throughout his time in office.

But President George W. Bush held the same positions too. So how come Barack Obama gets such a bad rap for them.

Not surprisingly, the more liberal non-orthodox Jews in America — meaning the vast majority of American Jews – do not share this critique of President Obama. The leaders of the Reform and Conservative Jewish organizations, as well as the people behind the J Street lobby group, have been appreciative of President Obama’s Mid East policies.

So what is the argument in favor of President Obama?

Well let’s see, he approved of increased arms sales to Israel. This included technology and support for its Iron Dome missile defense program and the sale to it of the new F 35 stealth fighter bombers made by Lockheed Martin.
The President has also provided Israel with more military aid on average per year in office than any of his predecessors going back to Harry Truman, who was President when Israel became an independent nation almost 69 years ago.

Barack Obama was also supportive of Israel during its conflict with the Hamas terrorist organization in Gaza at the end of 2014 when it engaged in Operation Protective Edge. Not only did he ensure the continued rearming of Israel at the time, but he made no moves against it. Nor did Obama make any comments critical of Israel’s actions.

And this at a time when just about every other world leader did slam Israel’s response to missiles being fired out of Gaza by the Hamas as being “disproportionate,” whatever that means.

Not only that but, while on a state visit to Indonesia during the conflict, Barack Obama stated during a press conference that America would have the same response if missiles were fired upon it from across the border and supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

Finally, on his way out of office President Obama approved a $38 billion aid package to Israel for the next ten years. This marks almost a 25 percent increase in the value of America’s annual aid to the Jewish State.

Barack Obama Good for Israel

So what exactly have American Jewish leaders had to say about Barack Obama when it comes to Israel?

According to Haaretz, The Zionist Organization of America’s Morton Klein who is considered right wing Criticized the President saying, “Obama will be remembered as the most dangerous and hostile president to Israel, even supplanting anti-Semitic Jimmy Carter.”

To be fair here, former President Carter did not become so vehemently anti-Israel until after he left office. But Mr. Klein, like many, sees last year’s Iran nuclear deal as President Obama’s worst offense.

“History will judge Obama harshly for the horror of releasing over $100 billion and eliminating most sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran,” added Klein, “the largest funder and promoter of Islamic terrorism in the world, and providing them a pathway to nuclear weapons endangering Israel and the West.”

So it was the Iran deal that makes Barack Obama anti-Israel. But why?

Do all of the people who wanted a military solution really want to start World War III? Israel’s own generals said that its military was not capable of succeeding in taking out Iran’s nuclear project in an attack. And even if it could, such an attack could never be attempted without America first green lighting it. And if America did give such an attack the thumbs up, then why have Israel do it and not bomb Iran itself?

Believe it or not, the Iran deal was not just about Israel. And a strong argument can be made that it’s working.

According to The Hill, which wrote about the agreement on its first anniversary January 16, it “has been a certifiable success in its first year, achieving its objects of blocking Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon and increasing visibility into Iran’s nuclear activities.”

The deal has blocked Iran’s ability to produce either a uranium-based and plutonium-based nuclear weapon.

It lets Iran keep only a small amount of low-enriched uranium and the country cannot enrich it above the 3.67 percent level (90 percent is considered weapons-grade uranium).

Iran has already complied by removing 97 percent of its low-enriched uranium. The agreement has also frozen and reversed Iran’s dramatic increase in centrifuges to enrich uranium.

barack obama Iran

Before the deal, Iran also had about 20,000 centrifuges capable of enriching uranium. Of these, two thirds have already been dismantled in accordance with the agreement.

But the most important thing to remember about the deal is that, before it was signed, Russia and China had made statements that they would go back to business as usual with Iran and ignore the UN sanctions if no deal were reached. This would have, in effect, mooted all such sanctions without the Iranians having had to make any concessions.

But that did not stop Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from condemning the agreement. He also broke with all standing diplomatic protocols by not only speaking before the American Congress to condemn the foreign policy of the President of the United States, but he also did so after accepting the invitation to do so from the opposition Republican Party without first consulting with the White House.

US President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu.

And as for Netanyahu, President Obama’s personal dislike for the man has been confused with a negative opinion of Israel. Let’s be honest here for a moment. Nobody likes Benjamin Netanyahu. Not even the people in his own political party.

The man has not only alienated the Cabinet Ministers from his coalition parties over the years, but the list of senior people from the Likud who either switched to another party or who started a new one entirely because of him is endless.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also always under a cloud of suspicion for corruption and ethics violations. He is currently under investigation by the Israeli police for two unrelated affairs.

So this brings us to the UN Security Council resolution which condemned Israel on December 23 of last year. America visibly chose to abstain from the vote, rather than use its veto to stop it from passing.

Yes this was bad. Very bad. The resolution did not just condemn Israel’s settlement building in the West Bank, but it also declared all building in any part of Jerusalem on the other side of the pre-1967 border to be illegal. This includes the Jewish Quarter of the Old City as well as the Western Wall plaza, the holiest site in the world for Jews.

But the decision to abstain from the vote did not happen in a vacuum.

Netanyahu could not, or would not, convince the right wing ministers in his cabinet to just be patient and wait the lousy two months until Barack Obama left office to expand settlement building. This infuriated President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry.

So maybe, just maybe, they were fed up with Netanyahu personally and the way in which he kept on undermining them with the Congress and how he coordinated with Donald Trump on the UN vote before it was held; even though, Trump was not yet President himself.

So there you have it. Just listen to the people who have been most vocal about calling Barack Obama a hater of Israel. These are generally people who characterize anyone who does not share their views on the Mid East conflict and refuse to acknowledge what half of all Israelis themselves want and believe. If Barack Obama hates Israel then most Israelis do too.

So to use as many clichés as possible here, it is too soon to tell, history will judge, time heals all wounds, etc., etc.

If you really believe that President Barack Obama has been bad for Israel, then please do the following: Sit down and draw up a list of every single thing that he has supposedly done that was bad for Israel. Then ask yourself if these things are so different from what half of the people who actually live in Israel want. Then ask yourself – and this is most important – when you say that Barack Obama hates Israel do you really just mean that he disagrees with your personal opinion as to what Israel should or should not do.

As for us, to use the title of the MASH series finale, we wish to say on the eve of Barack Obama’s departure from the White House, goodbye, farewell, and amen.

Barack OBAMA Israel

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