Commentary Magazine


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Obama’s AIPAC Address

The entire text of Barack Obama’s address to AIPAC is worth a read. Anytime a presidential candidate confirms our commitment to Israel and expresses any understanding of the historical and religious roots of the state of Israel I am pleased. We should never get so caught up in electoral politics that we fail to appreciate that a bipartisan consensus on the value of the Israeli alliance remains a key component of our national security agenda. That said the speech was, well, odd.

He began with the excuse/warning that bad things were being said about him in emails. But again he did not use the occasion to mend any fences–to explain, for example, that advisors say things he doesn’t believe in, or that he has come to see how hateful and disturbing Rev. Wright’s hate speech is and how it poisoned the well with the Jewish community. The elephant in the room just stomped along.

On several policy points, the most obvious problem to me seems that there is a disconnect, and absence of means to ends, in his vision. He says he loves and will defend Israel but there is no road to get there (i.e. a more peaceful and secure Israel) other than some vague diplomatic avenue. But with whom shall we negotiate? Why will he succeed when others fail? In part, of course, this is because he repudiates means that might pressure opposing forces either diplomatically or militarily. And for those hoping that he might have seen the light on the surge, the answer is “no.” He is still pulling out and seems blissfully unaware what impact it might have on Iran, Hamas and other terrorists — that is, the enemies of Israel.

As for his position on designating the Iranian National Guard as a terrorist organization, we should be clear. He opposed it last fall, was criticized by Hillary Clinton and Dick Durbin, and now has invented a patently false excuse: that it involved U.S. troops. At the time, his real problem was that it was too confrontational (“Bush saber rattling,” in Obama’s nomenclature). He should be honest if he has changed his mind. It is a good thing, after all, that he now recognizes the Iranian National Guard as a terrorist organization. It does make it that much stranger, though, that he still wants to meet with the Iranian President.