EDITORIAL: Obama’s Israel problem

This president has undermined the security of the Jewish state

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The Obama White House claims to have done more for Israel’s security than any in history. If that were the case, President Obama would not have to continually defend his shaky record.

“I try not to pat myself too much on the back,” Mr. Obama told the audience at a Jewish-American fundraiser last week, “but this administration has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration.” Presidents should always steer away from superlatives, but this claim is self-evidently absurd. Has he done more for Israel than Harry Truman, who helped lead the drive in the United Nations for recognition of Israel’s statehood? Has he done more than Richard Nixon, who mounted Operation Nickel Grass to resupply Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War and who materially contributed to Israel’s victory? Has he done more than Ronald Reagan, who granted Israel the status of major non-NATO ally and made Israel the largest recipient of U.S. military assistance in the world? Those presidents offered deeds, while Mr. Obama has only words, and usually the wrong ones.

Mr. Obama contrasts most starkly with Jimmy Carter. Mr. Carter hasn’t been a friend to Israel since leaving the White House, but he brokered the 1978 Camp David accords, the single most important diplomatic effort of any U.S. president respecting Israel. Under the accords and the subsequent Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty, Egypt became the first Arab state to recognize Israel. The peace agreement removed Egypt from any potential coalition of Arab states contemplating renewed war with Israel and in fact ended the conventional military threat. It earned Anwar Sadat, president of Egypt, and Menachem Begin, prime minister of Israel, the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mr. Obama, a fellow Nobel laureate, is undoing that historic achievement. He backed the removal of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who had kept faith with the peace agreement for 30 years after the assassination of Sadat in 1981. Mr. Obama supports the political aspirations of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which will seek to discard the peace treaty with Israel at the first opportunity. Far from doing the most to secure Israel of any president, he may be doing the most to resurrect the specter of conflict with Egypt.

Mr. Obama has a lot of explaining to do to American supporters of Israel, whether Jewish or gentile. He backed away from his 2008 campaign pledge that “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided,” by defining Israeli construction in East Jerusalem as “settlements,” affirming Palestinian claims on that part of the city. He abandoned the understanding between America and Israel legitimizing “natural expansion” - also known as Jewish babies - in Israeli settlements. He created a firestorm of controversy in May when he emphasized that the 1967 borders (the 1949 cease-fire line) - or, as a former Israeli ambassador to the United States called it, the “Auschwitz border” - would have to be the starting point for any future peace agreement.

Instead of patting himself on the back, Mr. Obama should come up with a list of tangible things he has done to ensure the security of Israel. It would be an extremely short list.

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