President Obama delivered a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee on Sunday. The text can be found here.
Barack Obama's reception was lukewarm when he walked on stage -- and for good reason, given the treatment he has meted out to Israel since assuming the presidency. I thought it would be interesting to do a so-called Fisking of his speech to illustrate its inaccuracies. Fisking is named after the British "journalist" Robert Fisk who has been notorious for passing off his biases and errors as facts. A Fisking just reveals and highlights these "errors". The excerpts are in quotes; my analysis follows after Comment
So a Fisking we go:
"Despite a tough budget environment, our security assistance has increased every single year. We are investing in new capabilities. We're providing Israel with more advanced technology - the types of products and systems that only go to our closest friends and allies. And make no mistake: We will do what it takes to preserve Israel's qualitative military edge - because Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.
This isn't just about numbers on a balance sheet. As a senator, I spoke to Israeli troops on the Lebanese border. I visited with families who've known the terror of rocket fire in Sderot. And that's why, as president, I have provided critical funding to deploy the Iron Dome system that has intercepted rockets that might have hit homes and hospitals and schools in that town and in others. Now our assistance is expanding Israel's defensive capabilities, so that more Israelis can live free from the fear of rockets and ballistic missiles."
Comment: He did not do this; Congress did. Mark Kirk was instrumental in ensuring the Iron Dome system was funded, developed and deployed. This was during the Bush years, not the Obama years. A matter of fact, he trimmed funding in his latest budget proposal for Israel's missile defense.
"And just as we've been there with our security assistance, we've been there through our diplomacy. When the Goldstone report unfairly singled out Israel for criticism, we challenged it. When Israel was isolated in the aftermath of the flotilla incident, we supported them. When the Durban conference was commemorated, we boycotted it, and we will always reject the notion that Zionism is racism.
When one-sided resolutions are brought up at the Human Rights Council, we oppose them. When Israeli diplomats feared for their lives in Cairo, we intervened to save them. When there are efforts to boycott or divest from Israel, we will stand against them. And whenever an effort is made to delegitimize the state of Israel, my administration has opposed them. So there should not be a shred of doubt by now - when the chips are down, I have Israel's back."
Comment: The Obama administration joined the execrable and anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council where anti-Israel actions continue to mount with no opposition from America; they waited and waited until the political pressure became intense to decide not to attend Durban (other nations, such as Canada, announced their intentions not to attend much earlier). Susan Rice has excoriated Israel at the United Nations. Former AIPAC Policy Conference Speaker Anne Bayefsky recently outlined how weak American support for Israel at the United Nations has been the last 3 years (see Obama Rewrites His Record on Israel)
"Which is why, if during this political season you hear some questions regarding my administration's support for Israel, remember that it's not backed up by the facts. And remember that the U.S.-Israel relationship is simply too important to be distorted by partisan politics. America's national security is too important. Israel's security is too important."
Comment: Yes..all the criticism is all lies for partisan purposes. So, therefore, all criticism should be ignored -- especially before November. A President should not stoop to partisanship during this type of speech (didn't Barack Obama himself decry such partisanship in this very speech)?
"But as hard as it may be, we should not and cannot give in to cynicism or despair. The changes taking place in the region make peace more important, not less. And I've made it clear that there will be no lasting peace unless Israel's security concerns are met. That's why we continue to press Arab leaders to reach out to Israel, and will continue to support the peace treaty with Egypt. That's why - just as we encourage Israel to be resolute in the pursuit of peace - we have continued to insist that any Palestinian partner must recognize Israel's right to exist and reject violence and adhere to existing agreements. And that is why my administration has consistently rejected any efforts to short-cut negotiations or impose an agreement on the parties."
Comment: Where to start? First of all, no requirement that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state (see Omri Ceren's " Obama's Telling Silence"). Has there really been an effort to press Arab leaders to reach out to Israel? I have not seen much movement. How accurate is this statement? "And that is why my administration has consistently rejected any efforts to short-cut negotiations or impose an agreement on the parties." Where to start with that sentence? The administration has ignored commitments regarding Israel having defensible borders and agreements regarding settlements; it has ignored the Palestinians ignoring Oslo commitments regarding the sequencing of actions; the issue of the 1967 borders that Obama threw out as "the basis" of negotiations; one could go on and on criticizing that claim. Even Abbas admitted he saw the Presidents efforts to push Israel so broad and hard he felt all he had to do was sit back and wait for Barack Obama to push Israel into agreements (see Abbas's Waiting Game by Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl).
"When I took office, the efforts to apply pressure on Iran were in tatters. Iran had gone from zero centrifuges spinning to thousands, without facing broad pushback from the world. In the region, Iran was ascendant - increasingly popular and extending its reach. In other words, the Iranian leadership was united and on the move, and the international community was divided about how to go forward."
Comment: Everything is Bush's fault. President Obama was clever here because he did not directly say this, but he all-but-did-so by picturing a situation where the world was divided, sanctions were weak, etc. before his Presidency. Some truth to that, but contrary to what he asserts, China and Russia are not cooperating very much with sanctions and other countries have helped Iran that were not doing so before (Turkey, run by a leader that Obama considers one of his best friends among international leaders). What has really focused the world's attention is Israel's words regarding the chance of a military strike -- language that the administration is trying to defuse -- as Barack Obama calls for in his AIPAC speech.
Fact: Barack Obama tried to slow and weaken sanctions legislation as it moved through Congress; his "implementation" was so weak that at various times over the last few years large numbers of Democrats and Republicans from both the Senate and the House have called for him to actually start enforcing the sanctions they passed; most recently, the White House refused to implement additional sanctions on foreign firms doing business with Iran's Central Bank-power he was given by the Kirk-Menendez amendment. A former top Israeli official noted that additional sanctions are available but that Barack Obama has refused to use them. When he signed the legislation that contained the Kirk-Menendez amendment, he issued one of those presidential signing statements he used to excoriate when his predecessor issued them. This signing statement expressed his intention to interpret the Kirk-Menendez in a way that would allow him to take a pass on invoking those sanctions -- something he did last week.
Iran's leaders should understand that I do not have a policy of containment; I have a policy to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
Comment: Good about containment not being a policy; but people were looking for "red lines" regarding preventing Iran from developing the capability to develop nuclear weapons. There were no "red lines". As Jonathan Tobin notes, "there was the absence in the speech of any indication that the United States is willing to lay down 'red lines' that mark the limit of how far Iran may go without obligating Washington to take action. Though the president deprecated the 'loose talk' about war that has been heard lately, the only way to avoid such a conflict is to demonstrate to Iran that if it continues, as it has, to increase its efforts toward nuclear capability, it will bring down upon itself the wrath of the West." Israelis will not be comforted by Iranians having the capability to build a bomb at a time and place of their choosing.
By trying to tamp down Israeli language regarding possible military strikes against Iran, by sending out administration officials to indicate it would be foolish for Israel to strike since Iran is a "rational actor" and such a strike would probably not succeed, and that the WH was "trying to make the decision to attack as hard as possible for Israel," the administration is taking steps that would ease pressure on Iran to negotiate. Such language will be interpreted that America does not have Israel's back and will thus decrease the perception that Israel would strike Iran. This would incidentally have the effect of lowering oil prices before November, and helping at least one person's prospects if not the prospects of millions of people threatened with destruction.
Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker