“It is not what one says, but rather what one does that makes all the difference in the world.” (Pirke Avot 1:17)
Like Mitt Romney, the candidate whom he supports, Sheldon Adelson’s analysis of President Barack Obama’s attitude toward the well-being of Israel is short on specifics. Unsubstantiated statements deserve a closer look.
In his op-ed on this page, Adelson claims we cannot take President Obama at his word when it comes to his commitment to Israel. Happily, we don’t have to, as we have his actions to rely upon, as well.
As recently as July of this year, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak described U.S. support for Israel’s security as unparalleled. He told CNN: “I should tell you honestly that this administration under President Obama is doing in regard to our security more than anything that I can remember in the past.”
Needless to say, we don’t have any such assurance of Romney’s interest in seeking solutions to the Israel-Palestinian impasse. On the contrary, in his statement from the same leaked video in which he made his remarks about the “47 percent,” he said the only way forward on the stalemate is to “sort of live with it, and [we] kick the ball down the field and hope that ultimately, somehow, something will happen and resolve it.” It’s hard to hang our hopes for peace in the Middle East on such an attitude.
In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find any instance of President Obama signaling either lack of sympathy for or hostility to Israel, as Adelson claims. Obama and Netanyahu may not like each other much, yet we would be foolish to equate the attitude toward one man with commitment to his country, particularly a country that has flip-flopped between Labor and Likud so frequently.
Leaders come and go; alliances of the sort the U.S. has with Israel have endured through both Democratic and Republican administrations for over 60 years. As Graham T. Allison and Shai Feldman wrote in the Oct. 12 New York Times, “when allies are as close as Israel and the United States, the relationship between them should not depend on whether the personal chemistry between their leaders is strong or weak.”
Preposterously, Adelson goes on to question whether Obama has made anti-Israel promises to anyone. Why would one ask such a question other than to inspire fear in the face of no evidence whatsoever? One can fact-check a statement, but not something about which there has never been a word uttered or written. Obama has stated his unequivocal support for Israel’s right to exist in peace and security repeatedly over the course of his time in office.
Yet Adelson says: “Nor can we afford to ignore [Obama’s] troubling track record on Israel.” What track record are you referring to, Mr. Adelson? When Romney pledged to “do the opposite” of the Obama administration on matters pertaining to Israel, Ben LaBolt, an Obama campaign spokesman, rightly asked, “Does that mean he would reverse President Obama’s policies of sending Israel the largest security assistance packages in history? Does it mean he would let Israel stand alone at the United Nations, or that he would stop funding the Iron Dome system? Does it mean he would abandon the coalition working together to confront Iran’s nuclear ambitions?”
Jews vote overwhelmingly for Obama not because of Israel, but not despite it, either. This is not because they are uninformed or bamboozled, but rather because they are able to parse the daily news with a nuanced perspective. They know the difference between hollow lies, spoken in a craven effort to sow fear to gain votes, and a proven track record. They know how to fact-check both Romney’s and Adelson’s statements. The Jewish vote cannot be bought by the millions Adelson has sunk into Republican coffers.
As Jews, we have a 2,500-year-old tradition both of loving and questioning the teachings of the Torah. Judaism does not seek blind allegiance. Therefore, we can feel a kinship with President Obama, who can multitask when it comes to Israel, supporting some of his policies while criticizing others at one and the same time.
Susie Coliver is a member of San Francisco’s Congregation Beth Sholom and, as a principal in Herman Coliver Locus Architecture, has designed the new space for Congregation Kol Shofar,
among many other Jewish communal spaces.