Obama's Fair-Weathered Friendship With Israel

James Inhofe
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Posted: Mar 09, 2012 12:01 AM
Obama's Fair-Weathered Friendship With Israel

President Obama's speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last Sunday was an attempt at making an empty glass look half full. Then on Monday, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the White House, President Obama said his commitment to Israel is "rock solid." But when surveying all of Obama's policies toward Israel to date, that rock solid support looks more like putty.

Obama's viscous position on Israel began shortly after his inauguration. His 2009 Cairo speech equated the Holocaust to the history of the Palestinian Authority (PA). During the same speech, he naively intoned, "no nation should pick and choose which nation holds nuclear weapons. And that's why I strongly reaffirmed America's commitment to seek a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. And any nation -- including Iran -- should have the right to access peaceful nuclear power."

These statements, made at the dawn of his administration, reveal the true predisposition of Obama toward the state of Israel.

Last year, after his ill-advised and disastrous foray into thinking that the Middle East peace process negotiations could be restarted by returning Israel to its pre-1967 borders and dividing Jerusalem, Obama was forced to abandon his position by true friends of Israel on Capitol Hill.

In fact, it was protests by members like me and others - both Republican and Democrat-that forced Obama to beat a retreat and accommodate legislative mandates to increase funding for programs that provide for the continued existence of the only democracy in the Middle East.

In this election year, President Obama sure is talking a good game when it comes to supporting Israel. The problem is, he isn't living up to the old adage: "Put your money where your mouth is."

For example, his recently released budget request for this year is the second one in a row in which Obama has decreased his already inadequate budget request for Israeli missile defenses, dropping it from $121.7 million in 2011 to $106.1 million in 2012, and $99.8 million in 2013.

Given the constant missile attacks from Gaza, Lebanon, and Iran's rapid development of a deliverable nuclear weapon, these decreases put Israeli lives and the nation itself at risk. Close to 30 years of American funding and cooperation with the Israeli military has resulted in the deployment of a layered missile defense system that includes the Arrow, Standard Missile-3, Patriot, THAAD, Iron Dome, David's Sling, and associated ground and sea based radars.

President Obama's budget request jeopardizes continued testing and improvement of these critical systems, specifically the Arrow-3 and David's Sling. While I fully expect Congress to once again plus up Obama's budget request for missile defense, no true friend of Israel would underfund such a program so critical to its survival.

While making this cut, Obama flip-flopped on the issue of Palestinian membership in the United Nations Educational, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Under U.S. law, all funding is cut off immediately to any entity within the UN --like UNESCO-- that extends membership to the Palestinian Authority before the PA is recognized as a full UN member.

Last October, UNESCO extended membership to the PA. At that time, the Obama Administration, while acknowledging the law, furiously tried to push millions of taxpayer dollars out the door of the State Department to UNESCO before the law was due to take effect.

Just last week, in discussing Obama's budget before the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Clinton requested a waiver of this law to resume funding UNESCO in the amount of $78 million!

As Clinton sheepishly admitted at the hearing, "Palestinian membership in UNESCO was premature and unhelpful . . . but the State Department does believe that some benefits accrue to the United States in membership in these organizations . . . . and, as we've done in many situations over the years, providing some national security waiver would allow us to make case-by-case [UNESCO funding] decisions."

Friendship determined on a 'case-by-case' basis is not true friendship, but fair-weather friendship. With the specter of a nuclear-armed Iran, Israel needs a true friend who guarantees its right to defend itself unencumbered by election year politics.