Although I truly believe President Barack Obama has had good intentions in his policies toward Israel, and has accomplished much in the region, there are several key respects where he could have been — and still can be — a greater friend to Israel.
With regard to the Iranian nuclear threat, the President needs to clarify that he will not allow Iran to become capable of developing a nuclear weapon. We cannot allow Iran to get within sprinting distance of developing a nuclear warhead that can be used against Israel. President Obama should make clear to Iran and the world that the United States will use military force against Iran's nuclear program if Iran achieves nuclear weapons capability. So there are no tragic mistakes on the world stage, there should be no misunderstanding on this point.
On the issue of negotiations with the Palestinians, the President was misguided in calling for a return to pre-1967 borders, and he was misguided in linking the freezing of West Bank housing construction to the advancement of peace negotiations. Furthermore, he should have visited Israel. The failure of the President's peace initiative largely results from these missteps.
This is not to say that I entirely disapprove of the President's policies toward Israel. Over the last few years, President Obama has built unprecedented global cooperation for sanctions against Iran, and he is leading one of the most biting and crippling sanctions programs in modern history. Given that we live in a globalized economy, global cooperation was necessary here. It is the administration's deft diplomacy – of the kind that was lacking during the Bush years – that has given the sanctions a chance to work.
Under the current administration, Americans and Israelis have reached an unprecedented level of military, security, and intelligence cooperation, and U.S. aid to Israel is at an all-time high. We must also acknowledge the President's success in standing against the world and blocking the Palestinian statehood push at the U.N.
If elected to Congress, I will be a passionate friend of Israel, and will push the President to be a greater friend to Israel than he currently is.
My Republican opponent in this race, Dan Halloran, endorsed Rep. Ron Paul for president. Ron Paul has expressed disdain for Israel, attempted to end all U.S. aid to Israel, supported leaving Israel to face its many threats alone, and has opposed confronting the Iranian nuclear threat at all. He is also Dan Halloran’s choice for commander-in-chief. Speaking of Ron Paul, Gov. Mitt Romney said, “One of the people running for president thinks it’s O.K. for Iran to have a nuclear weapon."
It’s great that Mr. Halloran says he would support Israel as a member of Congress. But it's the president who dominates our foreign policy and commands our military, and it's the president who arguably has more power in these areas than all of Congress combined. If Mr. Halloran had his way, Ron Paul would be our next President. While government and politics generally benefit from wide-ranging and spirited discussions, such outlier “fringe” positions should be recognized for what they are: dangerous. Ron Paul was one of only six members of congress to just vote against Iran sanctions this month, with 421 members voting in favor.
If Israel and the Iranian nuclear threat were really so important to Mr. Halloran, why would he endorse the one Republican presidential candidate — out of seven or eight options — who stood out for his anti-Israel views and his disinterest in the Iranian threat? Sometimes actions speak louder than words, and Mr. Halloran's endorsement of Ron Paul is deafening, particularly for those who care about Israel.
There may be a diversity of opinions on President Obama, but no one can dispute that a Ron Paul presidency would truly have been devastating for Israel.
We need congressional candidates whom we can trust on Israel, who are clear in their views and actions, and for whom support for Israel will never waiver. When I visited Israel in 2010, I developed an emotional connection to the country, and was able to gain a better understanding of the connection so many of our Queens neighbors have with Israel. I have nothing to hide, and that's why I can tell you — specifically and with full confidence — where I agree and disagree with the current administration on Israel. I will never give you reason to question my support of Israel, our vital ally.
Grace Meng is a member of the New York State Assembly representing the 22nd District in Queens, and is the Democratic nominee for the House of Representatives' 6th District.
The Jewish Week has offered Councilman Dan Halloran, the Republican nominee, equal exposure to express his views.