Presidential Offense

When I was old enough to realize that the world’s most powerful man was not the man living in my house (though Pop retained title in our home) but the man living in the White House, I became very interested in who this man was. I have come to have strong feelings about some presidents: Jimmy Carter, for example. Amazingly, despite his being out of office for over 30 years, my feelings for him have withstood the test of time and have continued to grow. Because of his persistent meddling in international affairs, I have come to disdain him more and more with time.

After Carter, I became increasingly interested in the presidency, and the president’s primacy in the world and, yes, the eternal question: Is a particular president good for the Jews and, derivatively, is he good for Israel?

All the presidents subsequent to the Carter catastrophe (I am biased; he admitted to loathing Menachem Begin) were, to varying extents, good to the Jews and Israel, even George the First, despite his old-school WASP associations. President Reagan, whom I greatly admired, even after his regrettable visit to the cemetery in Bitburg, Germany, was a good friend to Israel and the Jewish people. I was conflicted concerning Clinton — although he was clearly misguided concerning the viability of peace between Israel and the Palestinians, he was a committed friend to Israel. Clinton’s successor, George W. Bush, may have been the most ardent philo-Semite of the lot, and was a staunch supporter of Israel’s security and military superiority within the region.

That only leaves President Obama to consider in the context of a friend or foe to Jews and to Israel. It seems the president creates complex or rancorous relations with anyone or any nation that does not agree with him.

Epitomizing this point is the president’s disregard for Israel and palpable dislike for Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. It is impossible to say if the president likes or dislikes American Jewry but this is irrelevant as they overwhelmingly voted for him, despite his policies which by any measure are bad for them. It is possible — no, easy —to say that the president is most certainly not good for Israel, and still easier to say that throughout his tenure in office, he has shown distinct dislike for Prime Minister Netanyahu.

During his first term, the president sought to humiliate Netanyahu numerous times. The most notorious of these was the time he made Netanyahu wait for their appointment more than an hour while the president finished his meal in a leisurely fashion. This violation of all diplomatic protocol was widely publicized in the media, removing the president’s facade of civility.

Also occurring in the first term was the famous “open mic” incident with then-French-President Sarkozy, when each made verbally derisive remarks about Netanyahu. Again, this was headline material, dispelling any pretense that either Obama or Sarkozy, two putative allies of Netanyahu’s, liked or respected him.

After President Obama was re-elected it was, to borrow and bend a phrase, “audaciously hoped” that the fractious friendship between him and Netanyahu would be mended and that relations between the United States and Israel would return to better times.

The relationship did change; for the worse. Obama’s manifest disdain for Netanyahu sets a tone of contempt for Israel’s prime minister which permeates the president’s administration. This second term emboldened the president to take a consistently overbearing tone when addressing Israel, with Obama condescendingly insisting that he knows what is best for Israel and what is best according to him is the nuclear pact with Iran just concluded in Geneva.

The president’s attitude was a virtual green light for Secretary of State Kerry to make aggressive and antagonistic remarks to Israel during his recent visit to Jerusalem. This derisive tone filtered down to senior White House officials who, in unusually harsh personal attacks on Netanyahu, derided him as “desperate and weak,” in response to his media blitz condemning the deal struck with Iran and its nuclear weapons program. The unnamed sources continued the assault on Netanyahu, saying, “His pronouncements show a lack of self-confidence,” and concluded most dismissively, “We are not perturbed by his vocal opposition,” as if the prime minister of Israel, America’s greatest ally in the region and perhaps the world, were a third-rate potentate of an insignificant speck in the Pacific. Statements, representing the position of the administration cannot occur without an OK from top-level sources, such as Secretary of State Kerry or the president’s inner circle. Therefore the offensive nature of the remarks is a reflection of the administration’s views.

All this reminds me of a joke: A crotchety old man passes away and at his funeral no one has any kind words to say about him. Finally, the rabbi appeals to those in attendance, “Doesn’t anyone have anything good to say about this man?”

Carter and Obama: Can we consider them brothers?


Meir Solomon is a writer, analyst and commentator living in Alon Shvut, Israel, with his wife and two children. He can be contacted at