Neocon Group: Obama ‘Not Pro-Israel’; Netanyahu Demurs

The right-wing pro-Israel lobby group the Emergency Committee for Israel launched an ad campaign attacking President Barack Obama for his record on Israel. The ads, featured on billboards, public transport and with a web ad on the New York Times website, go after Obama’s pro-Israel bona fides, accusing him of, as the campaign’s tagline goes, being “Not Pro-Israel.” In a television spot, ECI — led by Bill Kristol, Gary Bauer and Rachel Abrams (with Noah Pollak as a mere figurehead) — shows a few clips of hardline pro-Israel hawks from both parties decrying Obama’s Israel policies, whereupon the narrator says:

Democrats. Republicans. It seems everyone agrees President Obama is not pro-Israel.

The campaign, which features a smiling handshake between Obama and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (not unlike the one pictured upper right), got picked up at all the usual places, including by Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post. Rubin previewed the 60-second cut of the ad on Friday. But between her post and the ad’s scheduled runs today and tomorrow on local New York stations and cable news channels, something remarkable happened. A very important person to the neocons — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — came out and contradicted the ad. Speaking after Israel’s embassy in Cairo was nearly overrun by Egyptian demonstrators, Netanyahu gave a brief speech during which he said:

Immediately at the beginning of the incident, I ordered that all the Embassy staff and their families in Cairo be put on a plane and returned to Israel.  At the same time we worked together with Egypt and the American government [sic] to assure that our remaining staff at the Embassy would be rescued without harm.

I would like to express my gratitude to the President of the United States, Barack Obama. I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment.  He said, “I will do everything I can.”  And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special measure of gratitude. This attests to the strong alliance between Israel and the United States.  This alliance between Israel and the United States is especially important in these times of political storms and upheavals in the Middle East.

As it turns out, not everyone agrees that Obama is anti-Israel. Perhaps Netanyahu had in mind the international diplomatic cover the U.S. gives — and has pledged to continue giving — to Israel. Or perhaps it is Obama’s work within U.S. policy and international diplomacy to slow Iran’s nuclear program — a top priority for Netanyahu’s government. Maybe it was Obama’s close cooperation with Israel to reportedly develop and deploy the Stuxnet computer virus against Iran’s nuclear centrifuges, a broader part of the program that prompted Netanyahu himself to comment this May at the AIPAC summit that “our security cooperation is unprecedented.”

While Netanyahu thanks Obama and praises his pro-Israel record, ECI and Jennifer Rubin choose to ignore that reality for one that better suits their hardline partisan worldview. Funnily, you won’t find the last two sentences of the above block quote in Jennifer Rubin’s write-up of the speech, in which she lavishes praise on the right-wing Israeli prime minister. No — Rubin cut those two sentences to interject a short introduction to the immediate next lines of the speech. She can’t seem to bear to tell her readers that someone — and someone quite important at that — actually thinks Obama is pro-Israel.

Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.


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