Purim may be over. But Haman is alive and well and living in the White House.
So says Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat.
“The president of the United States is lashing out at Israel just like Haman lashed out at the Jews,” the respected American-born rabbi said in a speech at the Jerusalem Great Synagogue 10 days after the March 17 Israeli election. [Editor’s note: This column is from the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin’s April 13 print edition. Rabbi Riskin dialed back his comparison after the issue went to press.]
That same weekend, high-profile American Rabbi Shmuley Boteach ran a full page ad in the New York Times comparing U.S. President Barack Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who in 1938 signed the Munich Agreement with Adolf Hitler.
This act of appeasement, which Chamberlain described as representing “peace for our time,” emboldened Hitler, who invaded Poland and triggered the start of the Second World War only 11 months after the agreement.
“Mr. President: Fighting Al-Qaeda made you like Churchill. Appeasing Iran will make you like Chamberlain,” said the ad, which urged Obama to demand that Iran repudiate genocidal threats against Israel, stop supporting terrorism and condemn the persecution and public executions of women and homosexuals as preconditions to any deal that would allow Iran to possess nuclear capability.
“Don’t allow Iran to become a nuclear power,” the ad pleads.
Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, meanwhile, argues that Obama has “gone to war against Israel” because he views the election results “as an opportunity to market his anti-Israel and pro-Iranian positions to the American public.”
Wow, that’s some enemy Israel is facing – if the situation is really that bad.
Is the animosity between Obama and re-elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu beyond repair? Were Netanyahu’s election eve remarks dismissing Arab voters and giving up on negotiations with the Palestinians enough to cause a permanent rift with Israel’s most powerful ally?
Is Obama really prepared to throw Israel under the bus because he was outmanoeuvred by a slick Israeli prime minister who dared to charm the U.S. Congress and expose the flaws in the president’s nuclear deal with Iran?
Netanyahu did himself no favours by announcing before the election that there would be no Palestinian state under his watch. Although he has since scrambled to explain that what he really meant was that a two-state solution wasn’t possible given the Palestinian Authority’s alliance with Hamas, that’s not what he said at the time.
More troublesome was Netanyahu’s Election Day warning to his right wing supporters that “left wing NGOs” were bringing Arab voters “in droves” to the polls. Although he has frantically backpedalled to insist that he didn’t mean to disparage Israeli Arabs and their right to vote, the remark was offensive and divisive.
Netanyahu’s appeals to the fear and loathing of the most narrow-minded of his supporters helped him win the election, but it deepened the rift with the already hostile Obama.
However, the U.S. response to Netanyahu’s remarks has been remarkably petty and disproportionate – the equivalent of a presidential temper tantrum.
Instead of simply expressing disagreement and moving on to address common concerns, the Obama administration has continued to scold Netanyahu publicly, and is clearly threatening to withdraw its support of Israel at the UN.
What about Glick’s assertion that Obama has “gone to war” against Israel?
There is no doubt that U.S. foreign policy under Obama has tilted away from its traditional allies, particularly in the Mideast. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat describes this as a shift from the “Pax Americana” model, in which the U.S. “enjoys a dominant position within a network of allies and clients,” to a strategy called “offshore balancing.”
Under this system, the U.S. would have fewer commitments and obligations, and regional powers would bear the primary responsibility for dealing with crises.
So “resolving” the issue of Iran’s nukes would somehow enable it to become a responsible partner in the region.
Besides the fact that the U.S. is far too entangled in the Mideast to even consider taking a back seat, the idea of making Iran a credible power willfully ignores its determination to wipe Israel off the map.
Obama’s determination to pursue a deal with Iran at all costs prompted 367 members of the U.S. Congress to sign an open letter reminding the president that Congress has to approve any deal and that it can ultimately refuse to lift sanctions against Iran.
And 47 U.S. senators have signed a letter reminding “the Islamic Republic of Iran” that any deal could be rolled back by the next president.
Obama may not be Haman. But thinking he can tame an Islamist rogue state while turning his back on Israel – as Neville Chamberlain sacrificed Czechoslovakia to appease Hitler – makes his naiveté increasingly dangerous to the Jewish state.
Let’s hope U.S. lawmakers who aren’t blinded by hurt feelings and a need to punish Israelis for re-electing Netanyahu can restore the U.S. to its proper role as Israel’s ally.