Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif,), the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee — making him possibly the most powerful Jewish member — has apparently been flooded by Jewish constituents with concerns about President Obama.
In an op-ed for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, He acknowledges what he says are some missteps (I’ve tried and tried to make the case that this business about mentioning the Holocaust in Cairo was a non-issue, but honestly, Oh Well), but says most of the concerns are based on falsehoods — and wonders of Republicans are behind them.
Unfortunately, President Obama got off to an uneasy start with Israel. As a result, he has faced doubts once again in the American Jewish community.
There were a series of missteps. First, while the president went to Cairo and gave an unprecedented speech defending Israel’s existence and condemning Holocaust denial before an Arab audience, he appeared to tie Israel’s creation to the Holocaust and failed to mention the Jewish state’s historical biblical roots.
Then, the president pushed hard — and publicly — with a call for a settlement freeze, including in Jerusalem. This was troubling not only because we should not confront close allies with public demands, but also because a call for restrictions on Jewish residential neighborhoods in Israel’s capital city is something no Israeli government could support.
These actions not only unsettled many in our community, they overshadowed the very positive actions this administration has taken on the issues most important to Israel’s security and survival. They also provided an opening for partisan opponents to peddle the worst characterizations of the president and his policies.
Waxman goes on to cite the closeness between the governments on Iran policy, the recent comity on the peace process, enhanced U.S. defense assistance for Israel, and efforts at the U.N. to knock back anti-Israel proposals.
The president’s policies have earned the praise of most people who are following this issue carefully, including the prime minister of Israel and other Israeli leaders. And we should not be offended by his efforts to enhance the United States’ ability to engage with a larger part of the Muslim world and push for more moderation by Arab states.
Yet, I have received so many e-mails and other accusations against the president — from people who consider themselves well informed — that I feel compelled to set out some of the myths and facts.
No, President Obama is not a Muslim; he is a Christian. No, Prime Minister Netanyahu did not enter the White House through a back entrance. This “incident” did not happen, and it has been refuted by the Israeli ambassador and by the prime minister himself. No, the United States did not refuse Israeli nuclear scientists visas — Israel and the State Department have both denied it. No, it was Turkey, not the United States, that withdrew landing rights from Israel at U.S. bases in Turkey. The United States objected and boycotted a joint NATO exercise Turkey planned to host.
I cannot help but think that some of this is being orchestrated by Republican partisans to gain support and undermine Democrats.