In a speech Friday night interrupted by applause 62 times -- a speech, according to press reports, that felt like a campaign rally -- the U.S. president told participants at the Union for Reform Judaism's biennial conference that his administration had done more to contribute to Israel's security than any other in history.
Specifically, Obama said his administration had spent more on keeping Israel safe than any other, including help with building Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system.
So America’s commitment -- America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakeable. It is unshakeable. (Applause.)
... it is hard to remember a time when the United States has given stronger support to Israel on its security. In fact, I am proud to say that no U.S. administration has done more in support of Israel’s security than ours. None. Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise. It is a fact. (Applause.)
I’m proud that even in these difficult times we’ve fought for and secured the most funding for Israel in history. I’m proud that we helped Israel develop a missile defense system that’s already protecting civilians from rocket attacks. (Applause.)
Obama went on to pledge that the United States would "prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons" and that "we will take no options off the table," a reference to a military strike if economic sanctions fail.
Reform Jews comprise about one-quarter of U.S. Jewry, 1.5 million people, and vote overwhelmingly Democratic. Some 78 percent of Jews voted for Obama in 2008, the largest percentage of any U.S. religious group.
The Obama team has been recycling the idea that he's been Israel's greatest friend for some months now, perhaps in reaction to withering attacks from critics that he is anything but.
On the two issues that matter the most to the State of Israel, Iran's nuclear program and peace with the Palestinians, Obama has arguably done more to harm the Jewish state than any president in recent memory.
Upon taking office, Obama pledged to "engage" the regime in Tehran, a supposed antidote to the hostility the mullahs faced under George W. Bush. Ahmadinejad and company took that engagement and ran with it, outflanking the U.S. at every opportunity and aggressively developing nuclear capability while telling the world they had no interest in a bomb.
Even today, when, according to the IAEA, Iran is close to building a bomb, the Obama administration can not bring itself to sanctioning Iran's central bank, a step some European nations have already taken and the only meaningful sanction remaining. Yes, the United States has armed Israel. No, it does not seem like the U.S. has any interest in stopping Iran or helping its Mideast ally should a military strike prove unavoidable.
As for the Palestinians, Obama gifted them early on with heavy pressure on Israel to "compromise" on borders and Jerusalem. Later in his presidency, Obama went further than any previous Palestinian regime by suggesting that any future peace deal be based on Israel's 1967 lines. Now, nearly four years later, Abbas and company won't even consider beginning negotiations with Israel if the Jewish state does not stop every building project in the West Bank first. Mind you, these are small projects in communities that will remain within Israel's borders in any future peace deal, the mythical borders that "everyone agrees to."
Reform Jews love Obama and, sadly, he will almost surely garner the majority of their votes in 2012. And people wonder why there is a growing divide between U.S. and Israel Jewry.
Gerald Burstyn writes for the World Jewish Daily.