Israel: With Friends Like Obama, Who Needs Enemies?

This past Sunday, while preaching on the name of Jesus — perhaps the most well-known resident of Israel (past, present, or future) — I asked those in the congregation to call out the first thing that they associated with the name of  the person I would mention.  When I mentioned Osama bin Laden, several yelled out “dead.”  The same for Elvis and Sinatra — “dead!”  When I mentioned the name Barack Obama, there were audible boos and cat-calls.  While not excusing the reaction of some within the congregation, I quickly reminded everyone something my mother taught me:  if you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say it at all — or at least not in a house of worship on a Sunday morning!

Notwithstanding that piece of advice, I can understand why a chorus of boos and cat-calls are coming in from Israel and her true friends today.  Following President Obama’s Mid-East speech today — which, by the way, should have surprised no one who has followed the increasing hostility of this Administration toward the State of Israel — the people of Israel and Jews around the world must be thinking:  “with friends like President Obama, who needs enemies?”

Ever since I heard that President Obama has called for Israel to withdraw to the borders prior to the 1967 Arab-Israeli, one thing kept popping into my head — Obama sure threw Israel under the bus.  Apparently, Mitt Romney and many others have had the same reaction:

“President Obama has thrown Israel under the bus. He has disrespected Israel and undermined its ability to negotiate peace,” Romney said in a statement.  “He has also violated a first principle of American foreign policy, which is to stand firm by our friends,” added the former Massachusetts governor.

Of course, President Obama has become the master of throwing his friends and family under the bus — witness his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright and his “typical white” grandmother.  Throwing Israel under the bus seems like it maybe second nature for this President.

In a break with past U.S. foreign policy, President Obama — only one day in advance of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington — the President publicly took the side of the Palestinians in their ongoing “dispute” over the Promised Land.  Of course, if by dispute you mean that the Palestinians — including the terrorist group Hamas — want ALL of what is currently the land of Israel and to drive the Jewish people into the sea, then what a dispute we have.  Is it any wonder that more and more Americans question this President’s Christian bona fides?

At this point, President Obama’s words about Israel ring hollow.  Surrounded on every side by enemies — or at best, very weak friends — Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East.  Ever since President Harry Truman immediately recognized the new State of Israel on May 14, 1948, American Presidents — both Democrats and Republicans — have stood steadfastly by Israel and the Jewish people, both in word and deed. 

How much more does President Obama have to say and do to make his opposition to the Jewish state of Israel abundantly clear?  Many Americans, including those within the Jewish community, were looking forward to hope and change that would be implemented by this transformative President.  I’m not quite sure that President Obama’s stance against the nation of Israel meets that expectation, unless you want to redefine the words “hope” and “change.”  But, as we’ve seen with this President, anything’s possible!

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About Howell Scott

I have been a Southern Baptist pastor for the last fourteen years. Before entering the ministry, I was a practicing attorney in my homestate of Florida. I have been married to my wife, Brenda, for 18 years and we have three sons, Stephen, Jacob, and Andrew.
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12 Responses to Israel: With Friends Like Obama, Who Needs Enemies?

  1. BDW says:

    Do you support a two-state solution?

    It’s probably worth noting that Netanyahu (met him once at an Atlanta Jewish event) is essentially a neo-con Republican. So, it’s not surprising that he is going to butt heads with Obama (or any Democratic or Liberal) on foreign policy. I think most expected a rocky relationship.

    It’s also worth noting that Jews are not a monolithic group. The responses from Jewish groups have varied and there are different perspectives among American Jews and Israelis concerning the appropriate foreign policy and steps necessary to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.

    Netanyahu himself only has a 32% approval rating as of March 2011. We’re not exactly talking about a popular Prime Minister. It seems unlikely that the people of Israel overwhelmingly back his foreign policy approach in light of that 32% approval rating.

    So, I think it’s unfair to characterize Obama as being opposed to the state of Israel. Are the many Israeli critics of Bibi then also opposed to the state of Israel? Would you characterize critics of Bush’s foreign policy with regard to the Iraq war as being opposed to the United States?

    Given the amount of diversity within any true democracy – whether US or Israel – can we really say that a persons opposition to a specific status-quo, a specific current policy makes that person opposed to the nation as a whole? That makes no sense.

    It seems that someone from Israel use that logic and say that you are opposed to the United States because you do not agree with American foreign policy under the current Obama Administration.

    Netanyahu says he supports a two-state solution. The GOP including our former President voiced support for a two-state solution. The Obama Administration supports a two-state solution. Although, I suspect there are many conservative evangelicals and religionists who are indeed opposed to any two-state solution. One freshmen GOPer from NY made his opposition abundantly clear not too long ago.

    The question is, how can a two-state solution be reached? Netanyahu feels bullied. He feels Obama is being more aggressive toward Israel than the Palestinians. Maybe that’s a fair criticism at this point.

    On the other hand, I don’t see how Netanyahu’s cranking up the West Bank settlement construction is consistent with his prior commitment to a two-state solution. Netanyahu has been intransigent with regard to the settlements. There are many Jews and non-Jews in Israel and in the US who are looking for more than a verbal commitment to a two-state solution. Netanyahu has failed on that front. And right now, we’re witnessing some tense situations between two Administrations. I like what Israel’s ambassador to the US said, “Friends have to be able to talk frankly to one another.”

    Sometimes frank discussions can be helpful. Perhaps these tense moments will lead to something fruitful with the emergence of a peace strategy that has a real possibility of success.

    But we really need to be careful not to dumb down the complexities of foreign policy to a Obama vs. Israel. We’re both democracies. It’s naturally more complicated than that.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Aaron,

      I figured that this post would get a response from you 🙂 If I lived closer to Waco, I would love to take you to lunch and talk politics and religion. We may not agree on all the issues, but I think we would have an enjoyable time together. Our church is searching for a new music pastor, so who knows. Maybe I’ll be taking a road trip that way one of these days. If you ever find yourself in El Paso, let me know. It’s only about an 1 1/2 hour drive from where I live.

      I do believe in a “Two-State Solution,” only insofar as Israel’s right to exist is affirmed — both in word and deed — and Israel is not “forced” to hand over control of Jerusalem. I do not see that happening anytime soon, especially with Hamas as part of the government in Gaza. Obviously this issue is extremely complicated, but I’m not sure how well that President Obama and his adminstration are doing in making positive steps forward. Who knows what was communicated behind the scenes in advance of Obama’s speech earlier today, but, if he did not give Israel a heads-up that he was going to advocate for a pre-1967 war border for a Palestinian state, then that is naive at best, particularly when this is a departure from previous administrations — both Democrat and Republican. I heard on the radio today talk that Israel may have used the pre-1967 war borders as a bargaining chip, but that with Obama’s (apparent) unilateral announcement, that this undercut whatever negotiating power Israel may have had with this issue. I think you are correct in your statement, “Netanyahu feels bullied. He feels Obama is being more aggressive toward Israel than the Palestinians. Maybe that’s a fair criticism at this point.” The perception among many, including myself, is that Obama is pre-disposed to the Palestinian side and therefore treats the Israeli’s, at least in public, much harsher than the Arabs/Muslims. Maybe that’s not really true, but perceptions are important. It would be nice for there to be lasting peace in the Middle East, but alas, my own theology tells me that this peace maybe illusive apart from the Prince of Peace. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  2. Steve says:

    “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong”

    — Stephen Decatur

    Elections have consequences. Obama won the Presidency. He is our President. Not saying that this shouldn’t be an issue in the 2012 campaign. Sure it should be.

    But until then America needs to support the President and this policy. EVEN IF IT IS WRONG!

    To do less makes one a traitor!

    • Howell Scott says:

      Steve,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I certainly agree thta elections have consequences. Because Obama is President, he has power to make and influence foreign policy, whether toward Israel or some other country. I don’t think that we have to support every policy that any President proposes. I think that one can be part of the “loyal opposition” and speak out against particular policies without necessarily being labeled a traitor. I’m not sure it would be wise to force anyone to agree with the policy of any President — Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal — if they did not choose to agree. Obviously there are limits on dissent, but I would personally draw very wide boundary lines for dissent and opposition. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  3. Marty says:

    I could not disagree more with the “traitor” comment. The Left screamed bloody murder when it was insinuated that their opposition to the war put them in opposition to the troops or rooting for the other side. And they were correct to do so. There is a vast difference between supporting the POTUS, and supporting his policies. That was the entire point of the first amendment: to be able to express one’s political opinions without fear of reprisal from the government. Dissenting speech is not traitorous. Once we head down that path, we limit our own freedoms all in the name of solidarity. That starts sounding hauntingly like Socialism. We cannot abide that.

    My only fear in this article, Howell, is motive. From both sides. Too often the tendency from evangelicals is to take the Zionist approach and, in the name of biblical accuracy and integrity, our country MUST avoid that at all costs. They are an established country. They are legitimate and need to stop this settlement crap. Israel has certainly been no angel over the decades, either.

    • Howell Scott says:

      Marty,

      I agree with your assessment of the “traitor” comment by Steven. That word should be reserved for those who truly commit traitorous acts against our country. Disagreeing with policies is not even close. I’m not sure what the “Zionist” approach is, but I believe that Israel has a right to build settlements in their own country. That can be disputed, but this whole peace process will never bear fruit when one side simply does not recognize the other’s right to exist. Israel does not lob rockets over the border into Gaza. If this happened in the U.S., say rockets being lobbed over into El Paso from Juarez, I don’t think our country would show as much retraint as Israel has over the years. And, quite frankly, we shouldn’t be retrained in defense of our country. Neither should Israel. The pre-1967 borders are virtually indefensible. For Obama to unilaterally call for that action, thus throwing his lot in with the Palestinians and Hamas, should be more than enough proof that he cannot be trusted to do what is right in regards to Israel. No country is perfect, but I hope our country continues to stand strongly with the people of Israel. Hope you are doing well. God bless,

      Howell

  4. Milton Robins says:

    I think what everyone is missing in this discussion–to be quite honest–is the fact that President Obama essentially gave Israel an out by saying the following:

    “For the Palestinians, efforts to de-legitimize Israel will end in failure. Symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September won’t create an independent state. Palestinian leaders will not achieve peace or prosperity if Hamas insists on a path of terror and rejection. And Palestinians will never realize their independence by denying the right of Israel to exist.”

    Later he added,

    “Recognizing that negotiations need to begin with the issues of territory and security does not mean that it will be easy to come back to the table. In particular, the recent announcement of an agreement between Fatah and Hamas raises profound and legitimate questions for Israel – how can one negotiate with a party that has shown itself unwilling to recognise your right to exist.”

    The president is saying, in other words, that if Palestinian leaders continue to align themselves with Hamas then Israel shouldn’t feel compelled to negotiate.

    I don’t think this president is hostile towards Israel. Rather, I think he has accurately gauged the implications of continued hostility (particularly in the context of what we’ve seen recently in Egypt, Libya, and Syria) between Arabs and Israelis and is calling for lasting and sustainable peace. In effect, I believe he’s saying the status quo is simply not sustainable.

    As you know, the Arab-Israeli conflict is the longest running and most pervasive UN dispute, and as the president pointed out both sides have some tough choices to make. Israelis should stop their illegal settlement construction. Some of those homes that were bulldozed by the Israeli government were the homes of Palestinian Christians (our brothers and sisters). Palestinians, for their part, should renounce violence and disassociate themselves with Hamas.

    I particularly liked the portion of the president’s speech where he gave two examples of what renouncing hatred could look like on both sides:

    “We see that spirit [of peace and reconciliation] in the Israeli father whose son was killed by Hamas, who helped start an organization that brought together Israelis and Palestinians who had lost loved ones. He said, ‘I gradually realized that the only hope for progress was to recognize the face of the conflict.’ And we see it in the actions of a Palestinian who lost three daughters to Israeli shells in Gaza. ‘I have the right to feel angry,’ he said. ‘So many people were expecting me to hate. My answer to them is I shall not hate… Let us hope,’ he said, ‘for tomorrow’.

    Complicating the conflict are Christian Zionists who view the modern state of Israel as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. On that basis, they argue that Israel, among other things, deserves our economic and political support. I’m extremely dubious about what they’ve actually done in the way of being the peacemakers that Jesus talks about in Matthew 5:9…

    The problem for this president is he embraced a key Palestinian demand but at the same time discouraged Palestinians from going to the UN for recognition (and thereby alienating Israel) as a state before reaching a negotiated settlement. So, politically he tried to have it both ways. And in politics you can’t have it both ways. Just ask Newt… haha!

  5. Dwight Covington says:

    After giving the two billion dollars in weapons destined for Israel to egypt which now will be in the hands of radicals. Obama is forgiving a billion dollars of the debt which we cannot afford. The weapons will be used against us and Israel. Someone please tell me
    who are our enemies, I don’t know anymore?

  6. Dwight Covington says:

    To BDW. Contrary to many opinions we are a republic not a democracy. The Swiss are the only democracy.

  7. Lydia says:

    I wonder our reaction if Bibi said we should return to our 1845 borders. (wink)

    I am no Zionist or dispsy but I have read a ton of history and know that the Syrians were only too happy to sell a lot of that barren land to Jews throughout the 1800-and 1900’s. Syrians, you ask? yes, that is what the “Palestinians” used to call themselves pre 1940’s.

    I also know that the majority of European Jews had no interest in Palestine before WW2.

    BTW: The British had a 2 state solution. They named it “Transjordan” and installed a Hashemite King for a reason. And no Jews would live there as per the memorandum after WW1.

    BTW: Israel allows Muslims to be elected to the Knesset. Name me one Muslim country that would allow the same…if they have real elections, that is.

  8. Lydia says:

    ‘Palestinians, for their part, should renounce violence and disassociate themselves with Hamas.’

    Hamas was duly elected by the Palestinians. And they maintain they will never recognize Israel. You are “wishing” in your statement above. it is a nice thought but has no basis in reality or experience.

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