WASHINGTON (JTA) — I was amused by Adam Serwer’s recent blog post titled “Is Bibi anti-Israel?” in which he pointed out that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conditionally offered this month to negotiate with the Palestinians using the pre-1967 borders as a framework. Amazingly, there was no outcry by American Jews that Netanyahu was abandoning Israel by suggesting a return to supposedly “indefensible” borders.
As Serwer noted, this was in stark contrast to the negative accusations hurled at President Obama after his May 19 State Department address during which he restated — against a backdrop of supportive statements about Israel’s security — longstanding U.S. (and, frankly, Israeli) policy that Israel’s negotiations with the Palestinians should take place along “1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps.”
Obama’s statement was unremarkable for many reasons: President George W. Bush said as much in 2005 while standing next to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in the Rose Garden; Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated the same formula in 2009; and Netanyahu even issued a joint statement with Clinton using that exact phrase last November. In fact, this common understanding has been the basis of bipartisan negotiations for at least 12 years, if not more.
So why was Obama vilified over this statement, but his critics remained silent as Netanyahu took the exact same position? And why do Obama’s critics insinuate that the Israeli government — Netanyahu in particular — has concerns with the president and his commitment to a safe and secure Jewish state? Why haven’t Netanyahu’s quite favorable remarks about the current status of the U.S.-Israel relationship been covered in the media?
In a recent speech in Tel Aviv, the Israeli leader extolled the current U.S.-Israel relationship, noting that the United States has “provided invaluable diplomatic, moral and military support. Diplomatic support, in our quest for a negotiated peace … grounded in security but grounded also in mutual compromise that can only be achieved in face to face negations. America is very, very clear on this point. And I think President Obama has spoken eloquently about this.”
Netanyahu then talked about the great military support that Israel receives from the U.S.
“We just had a successful deployment of the Iron Dome system. And we’ve intercepted seven missiles that were fired over the skies of Beersheva and Ashkelon,” the prime minister said, “and this was made possible by generous American military support; funding that was approved by the Obama administration.”
After we have all received scurrilous e-mails to the contrary, I imagine many American Jews will be surprised to learn that Netanyahu is pleased with and deeply grateful for the “diplomatic, moral and military support” his government has received from Obama. The president’s critics surely are not going to bring this up.
On an unprecedented level, and truly on the width and breadth of issues they face together, Obama and Netanyahu agree. You can see it in the words they speak, but you can see it even clearer in the everyday actions taken by the Obama administration to help secure Israel.
High-level security cooperation, including funding the critical Iron Dome? Check.
Heavily sanctioning Iran to block its pursuit of nuclear weapons? Definitely.
Committing to stop a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in September, as well as blocking other efforts to undermine Israel’s legitimacy in world bodies? Absolutely.
From the Gaza flotilla to missile defense cooperation, the list goes on and on.
So are critics being fair to President Obama when they intentionally misquote him and spread lies about his positions? Are they being fair when they portray a rift between the U.S. administration and the Israeli government in the face of clear evidence to the contrary? And are they helping Israel by trying to use Israel as a wedge issue for partisan gain?
While some work to tear down the bipartisan pro-Israel consensus that we’ve built over decades, Obama and Netanyahu continue to work as partners in every sense to secure Israel and ensure lasting peace for the Israeli people. On top of the extensive list of agreements regarding policy and security cooperation, add the fact that Netanyahu has reiterated his support for this longtime basis for negotiations.
Don’t listen to the noise; look at the record. Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama are truly on the same page.
(Marc Stanley is the chair of the National Jewish Democratic Council.)