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May 10, 2010

Hubbub about a Snub - The Truth About Obama and Netanyahu

Listed in: Israel, Stop the Smears, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally published in The Huffington Post

By Marc R. Stanley, Chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council

I recently had the pleasure of attending a dinner hosted by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, his Excellency Michael Oren. The dinner itself honored Democratic National Committee Chairman Governor Tim Kaine and served as a way for Ambassador Oren to emphasize the strong, bi-partisan nature of support for Israel in the United States. While the dinner itself was terrific and memorable, the real meat and potatoes (kosher, of course) for the night were served in the Ambassador’s myth-busting remarks about the state of relations between the Obama Administration and Israel.

Ambassador Oren went to great lengths to explain that relationships between the Ambassador and the top-level officials in this Administration are as good as or better than those between any previous Ambassadors and many previous Administrations, period. As the Ambassador noted, he has excellent access throughout the Administration. The Ambassador also emphasized that President Barack Obama has displayed a true commitment to Israel’s security and longevity by restoring Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge and by designating the global effort to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran as a top priority. However, as the Ambassador suggested, we might not know any of this because of the amount of bluster and flat-out incorrect speculation emanating from the media - and as I know all too well, we might not know any of this because of the purposeful effort by those who seek to use Israel as a partisan wedge issue their own gain.

Specifically, Oren explained his consistent “frustration” over the vicious “snub” rumor that has been circulating since Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to the United States in March. Supposedly, President Obama was less than diplomatic with Netanyahu and even refused to have dinner with him - even forcing him to enter the White House through some back door. But this is absolutely not true. According to Ambassador Oren, who was present the entire time, the meeting followed the protocol of a non-state visit; no pomp, no media, and no photos. President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu worked “closely and positively” during the meeting until late at night, with the Prime Minister and his team being granted the unusual privilege of staying on in the White House to work after the President retired. Later, when Netanyahu asked if the President could return to hear new ideas, he gladly did; and the two parted on good terms. It was not until the following morning that Israeli officials read that the visit was described as a “snub,” and they were shocked.

The “snub” claims are an invention of the media and they are being used by partisans, along with other rumors and outright lies, to damage President Obama without any regard for the truth. As Ambassador Oren said to us and has said before, those who use support for Israel as a partisan weapon or seek to inject partisanship into the issue of support for Israel threaten the critical U.S.-Israel relationship, by threatening the essential need for bipartisan support for the U.S.-Israel relationship.  

Ambassador Oren has been singing President Obama’s praises since he assumed his role as Israel’s chief diplomat to the United States. As with any diplomatic partnership, the United States and Israel will not always agree on every policy. However, as Ambassador Oren, Prime Minister Netanyahu, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have consistently stated, President Obama supports Israel and takes its security challenges seriously. It’s time for everyone to step back, take a deep breath, and realize that the U.S.-Israel relationship remains rock solid and that no political party has a monopoly on support for Israel’s security. That’s how it’s been since President Harry Truman courageously recognized Israel in 1948 (as Governor Kaine poignantly noted during dinner); it’s how it was when President Richard Nixon resupplied Israel during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and it’s how it is today as President Obama works tirelessly in 2010 to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran and promote peace in Israel.