In the nearly three years of the Obama administration — certainly the dreariest time in the history of U.S.-Israel relations — we’ve learned that presidents come and go (some quicker than others, we fervently hope), but the relationship between Congress and the American people, on one hand, and the government and people of Israel, on the other, is enduring. A high point in President Obama’s term was Prime Minister Benjamin’s Netanyahu’s speech to a joint session of Congress. It was, ironically and tragically, a repudiation of the U.S. president’s approach to Israel and exuberantly applauded by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress.
On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in direct, straightforward language confirmed the U.S.’s commitment to Israel in a speech at the Jewish National Fund’s 2011 National Convention in Cincinnati. In using simple, but not simplistic, language, Boehner’s speech (the handiwork of his excellent speechwriter Mike Ricci) eloquently conveyed that, in essence, this stuff is not hard to figure out:
Like you, I have read suggestions by newspaper columnists and observers that events have overtaken Israel … that Israel is ‘isolating itself’ in the Middle East.
That view is wrong, and always has been wrong.
Israel is not isolating itself – Israel is leading in the Middle East.
Israel does not stand alone – Israel stands above as the one true beacon of freedom and opportunity in the Middle East.
We’re here to see that Israel continues to thrive – and to make clear it is America’s duty to stand by her side. Not just as a broker or observer – but as a strong partner and reliable ally.
That’s why I’m pleased to report that the House has ensured – in this time of fiscal responsibility – that America meets its financial commitments to Israel.
We will continue to do so.
I’m also pleased with the work being done by the House Foreign Affairs Committee under the leadership of Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
She led the charge to put the House on record opposing funding for the Palestinian Authority as long as it aligns itself with Hamas.
As Ileana put it not too long ago, ‘I don’t care if there is one or five or hundreds of members of Hamas involved; no U.S. funds can go to the PA.’
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
He recounted Netanyahu’s speech to Congress: “He was talking about how the Middle East stands at a crossroads. And he said: ‘Like all of you, I pray that the peoples of the region choose the path less traveled, the path of liberty.’ It is the path less traveled, isn’t it? We know freedom and democracy don’t come cheap. They require vigilance – they rely on the tools of persuasion and progress. . . . Our democracies are cut from the same cloth. Our peoples treasure the same values.”
This week, Boehner explained, Israel will face a “a three-pronged assault ”:
There will be a “celebration” of the Durban Declaration, a document that charges Israel with racism.
The president of Iran, who has called Israel a cancer to be annihilated, will take the podium.
And the Palestinian Authority will seek a unilateral recognition of statehood.
Israel has demonstrated time and again it seeks nothing more than peace … a peace agreed to by the two states and only the two states.
Like every prime minister before him, Prime Minister Netanyahu knows peace will require compromise – and he accepts that. He welcomes that.
Where I’m from … where we’re from … we stand by our friends, especially the ones who have always stood by us.
Supporting Israel and her people has been the policy of this nation since Harry Truman sat in the Oval Office.
Our commitment to Israel should be no less strong today. If anything, it should be stronger than it’s ever been. And, with your help, it will be. It must be.
The administration is, no doubt, panicking. The president, on an issue on which he staked his credibility, faces potential humiliation. If he is forced, oh mercy — what a burden, to exercise the U.S. veto in the U.N. Security Council, he’ll face what he dislikes the most — the “isolation” of the U.S. Lost on him is the awareness that it is not “isolation” but leadership, proudly born and grounded in American virtue, that we demonstrate when we stand up to the “Third-World-Non-Aligned-Movement anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and anti-Americanism that seeped from the U.N.’s walls.”
Will the E.U. ride to the rescue (how embarrassing is that?) to minimize the damage to Israel and to Obama’s prestige? Maybe. And if the P.A. proceeds in violation of its international obligations to do an end-run around the Oslo process, Congress should swiftly cut off funds and close the PLO offices in the U.S. Oh, I can hear it now. The peace-processers will whine, “We can’t! We’ll lose our influence! The P.A. won’t listen to us.” Well, if it comes to that, the damage will have been done.
With the retirement of both Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, we can hope for better days in the U.S.-Israel and Israeli-Palestinian relationships.