Many American Jewish observers welcomed Barack Obama's selection of Sen. Joseph Biden as his vice-presidential running mate. As a member of the Senate since 1973, and the serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden is a seasoned political player and foreign policy heavyweight. His experience, it is argued, will make up for Obama's inexperience; his moderate liberal views will make up for Obama's radical liberal views.
Biden has a track record of often supporting Israel. And as he entered the Democratic presidential primaries last year, he stepped up his pro-Israel pronouncements. In an interview with the Forward for instance, Biden rejected the anti-Israel call to distance the U.S. from Israel in a bid to ratchet up Arab support for the U.S. As he put it, "In my 34-year career, I have never wavered from the notion that the only time progress has ever been made in the Middle East is when the Arab nations have known that there is no daylight between us and Israel. So the idea of being an 'honest broker' is not, as some of my Democratic colleagues call for, the answer. It is being the smart broker, it is being the smart partner.
But while Biden's rhetoric on America's relationship with Israel is firm, his positions on issues critically important to Israel's national security call into question his willingness to stand by Israel. He is a staunch supporter of an Israeli transfer of the strategically critical Golan Heights to Syria and has harshly criticized the Bush administration for its refusal to support Israeli negotiations with Syria. At the same time, he downplays the significance of Syria's strategic alliance with Iran and its sponsorship of terrorists in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority. Belittling those ties, Biden has claimed repeatedly and without a shred of evidence that the Syrians really want to put all of that behind them.
Biden's positions on Iran are even more troubling. Over the past decade, since Iran's ballistic missile program and its nuclear program came into full view, Biden has distinguished himself both for his refusal to support tough U.S. diplomatic moves against Iran and for his absolute opposition to the notion of a U.S. military strike on Iran's nuclear installations. In 1998, Biden was one of only four senators to vote against the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act, a bill that punished foreign companies and other entities that sent Iran sensitive missile technology or expertise.
In February 2005, at a speech before the global Davos Conference, Biden said that Iran's quest for nuclear capabilities is understandable and called on the U.S. to address Iran's "emotional needs" by signing a non-aggression pact with the mullocracy.
In September 2007, Biden was one of just a handful of senators who voted against a Senate resolution calling on the State Department to classify Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps a terrorist organization. The Revolutionary Guards is responsible for the insurgency in Iraq and for commanding, financing, arming, and training Hizbullah, Hamas and other international terrorist groups. It is also responsible for securing and developing Iran's nuclear weapons project and its ballistic missile arsenal.
For his part, Obama managed to be absent from the Senate during the vote last year, though he stated his objection to the resolution referring to it as "excessively provocative."
As to attacking Iran's nuclear installations, though Biden has claimed he would not take the military option "off the table," he has spoken of impeaching President Bush if he attacks Iran's nuclear installations. Late last year the New Hampshire Seacoast Online reported, "Biden said that the best deterrent to prevent pre-emptive military action n Iran is to make it clear, even if it is at the end of [Bush's] final term, action will be taken against Bush to ensure 'his legacy will be marred for all time.'
In the weeks after the September 11 attacks, Biden was already thinking about appeasing Iran. In a New Republic profile in October 2001, Biden was quoted raising the following suggestion to his Senate staffers: "Seems to me this would be a good time to send, no strings attached, a check for $200 million to Iran.
Yet for all of Biden's naivete regarding Syrian intentions, Iranian ambitions and the scope and significance of both countries' hatred of the U.S., Obama's selection of Biden as his running mate does moderate his ticket. While Biden's prescriptions for contending with the forces of global jihad by appeasing them are little different from Obama's, Biden at least tends to view Islamic jihadists as a negative force in international affairs. It is not at all clear that Obama shares his views.
Similarly, by all accounts, Biden -- though wrong on policy preferences -- is extremely proud of America and devoted to securing the country. Here too, it is not at all clear that Obama shares his views.
In an op-ed in his local Chicago neighborhood newspaper The Hyde Park Herald published on Sept. 19, 2001, Obama blamed the 9/11 attacks on al Qaeda's "lack of empathy for its victims."
He argued that the terrorists' hatred was not unique and it "most often grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair."
Obama then drew moral equivalence between the U.S. and al Qaeda by warning that in any future fight with its enemies the U.S. military must "take into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad."
He ascribed the bigotry and hatred that he couldn't find in al Qaeda's murderers to his fellow countrymen warning that Americans must not discriminate against Americans "of Middle Eastern descent."
Obama's apparent disdain for the U.S. was similarly on display in a quip he made about Russia's invasion of Georgia which implied it was morally and legally indistinguishable from the American invasion of Iraq. As he put it, "We've got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can't charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point."
Obama launched his political career in 1995 when he announced his candidacy for the Illinois State Senate. This most significant turning point in his until then undistinguished career took place at the home of unrepentant Weather Underground terrorists Bill Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn. Ayres and Dohrn were leaders of the Weather Underground when it conducted bombings of numerous government and private facilities in the 1960s and 1970s.
While Obama once dismissed Ayres as "just a guy from my neighborhood,' it has since been revealed that the two men worked closely with one another from 1995 to 2001 as directors of a leftist group called the Chicago Annenberg Challenge or the CAC, which sought to undermine the independence of public school principals and teachers in Chicago by compelling them to adopt radical teaching methods.
Obama is currently receiving the support of some 57 percent of American Jews. Although this is less than any Democratic presidential nominee in recent memory, it is still disturbing that a large majority of American Jews support him. The Obama campaign no doubt hopes the Biden selection will shore up Jewish support.
It can only be hoped that despite their party loyalty and what they're telling pollsters, American Jews (indeed, American voters generally) will judge Biden and Obama by their records and positions.
Biden has consistently denied the threat emanating from Iran and Syria not only for Israel but for the U.S. as well. And Obama's statements and actions expose him as a man ill disposed not only toward Israel but America itself.