The Not-So Swift Boating of Obama on Israel

My own brother fell for it. Over the Memorial Day weekend, he asked me why President Obama threw Israel under the bus. I asked him what he meant. He said he could not understand why Obama insisted that Israel had to accept pre-'67 borders. I told him that the President said nothing different than Prime Minister Netanyahu and showed him the speech. Once he witnessed the truth, he realized he had been hoodwinked by one of the most effective "swift-boating" campaigns ever to hit the Jewish community.

I know we Jews are a justifiably paranoid people, but I am still astounded that we are so willing to adopt rumors/innuendos that certain people don't support Israel without trying to learn the facts. As for President Obama, I am not sure what else he can do to express his support for Israel and convey his real concerns that peace needs to be achieved soon.

I think President Obama (in word, deed and belief) is a great supporter for Israel and the right leader to help facilitate peace. Don't take my words for it, look at his:

Obama recognizes what Israel has faced: "For decades, the conflict between Israelis and Arabs has cast a shadow over the region. For Israelis, it has meant living with the fear that their children could be blown up on a bus or by rockets fired at their homes, as well as the pain of knowing that other children in the region are taught to hate them."

Obama recognizes that the Palestinians have not participated in Peace Talks: "For over two years, my administration has worked with the parties and the international community to end this conflict, building on decades of work by previous administrations. Yet expectations have gone unmet. ... Palestinians have walked away from talks."

Obama warns Palestinians that efforts to delegitimize Israel will not work and will not create an independent state -- they must recognize Israel's right to exist: "For the Palestinians, efforts to delegitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won't create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist."

Obama reaffirms commitment to Israel: "As for Israel, our friendship is rooted deeply in a shared history and shared values." "Our commitment to Israel's security is unshakeable. And we will stand against attempts to single it out for criticism in international forums."

Obama recognized that peace cannot be imposed by the United States: "No peace can be imposed upon them -- not by the United States; not by anybody else. ... What America and the international community can do is to state frankly what everyone knows -- a lasting peace will involve two states for two peoples: Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland for the Jewish people, and the state of Palestine as the homeland for the Palestinian people, each state enjoying self-determination, mutual recognition, and peace."

Obama recognizes that Israel must defend itself and that a new Palestinian state must be non-militarized: "As for security, every state has the right to self-defense, and Israel must be able to defend itself -- by itself -- against any threat. Provisions must also be robust enough to prevent a resurgence of terrorism, to stop the infiltration of weapons, and to provide effective border security. The full and phased withdrawal of Israeli military forces should be coordinated with the assumption of Palestinian security responsibility in a sovereign, non-militarized state. And the duration of this transition period must be agreed, and the effectiveness of security arrangements must be demonstrated."

Obama recognizes that Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugee issue must be negotiated: "I'm aware that these steps alone will not resolve the conflict, because two wrenching and emotional issues will remain: the future of Jerusalem, and the fate of Palestinian refugees. But moving forward now on the basis of territory and security provides a foundation to resolve those two issues in a way that is just and fair, and that respects the rights and aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians."

All of these statements are encouraging to the vast majority of American Jews. So, let's take a look at the "controversial" statement about pre-'67 borders. What the President said on May 19 was: "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states." (My brother was surprised to learn the President had said "mutually agreed swaps.") This is almost word for word the same position articulated in a Joint Statement from Prime Minister Netanyahu and Secretary Clinton on November 11, 2010: "The Prime Minister and the Secretary agreed on the importance of continuing direct negotiations to achieve our goals. The Secretary reiterated that 'the United States believes that through good faith negotiations, the parties can mutually agree on an outcome which ends the conflict and reconciles the Palestinian goal of an independent and viable state, based on the 1967 lines, with agreed swaps, and the Israeli goal of a Jewish state with secure and recognized borders that reflect subsequent developments and meet Israeli security requirements. Those requirements will be fully taken into account in any future peace agreement.'" Prime Minister Netanyahu repeated this position twice last week -- at AIPAC and in front of the Joint Session of Congress.

The fact is, bad information about the President's stance on Israel has been intentionally pushed by Republicans in a cynical attempt to gain favor with Jewish voters. This is a dangerous game, one that won't result in electoral success for Republicans. Instead, it creates only one loser: Israel. The state of Israel is best served when America speaks with one voice. By creating the illusion that there is a rift between Republicans and Democrats on Israel, Republicans are emboldening Israel's enemies and are sending a scary message to international audiences that support for Israel isn't rock solid. The consequences of those actions could have grave implications for the future of the Jewish state.

"Swift-boating" President Obama by intentionally misrepresenting the truth is unfair to him and harmful to America's foreign interests.

Marc R. Stanley is the Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council