President Obama's abysmal attitude toward the State of Israel and his humiliating treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shocking. In the Washington Post on March 24th, Jackson Diehl wrote, "Obama has added more poison to a U.S.-Israeli relationship that already was at its lowest point in two decades. Tuesday night the White House refused to allow non-official photographers record the president's meeting with Netanyahu; no statement was issued afterward. Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length. That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice and respond to."
I have not heard or read statements criticizing the president by New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand or many other supporters of Israel for his blatantly hostile attitude toward Israel and his discourtesy displayed at the White House. President Obama orchestrated the hostile statements of Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, voiced by Biden in Israel and by Clinton in a 43-minute telephone call to Bibi Netanyahu, and then invited the latter to the White House to further berate him. He then left Prime Minister Netanyahu to have dinner at the White House with his family, conveying he would only be available to meet again if Netanyahu had further information - read concessions - to impart.
It is unimaginable that the President would treat any of our NATO allies, large or small, in such a degrading fashion. That there are policy differences between the U.S. and the Netanyahu government is no excuse. Allies often disagree, but remain respectful.
In portraying Israel as the cause of the lack of progress in the peace process, President Obama ignores the numerous offers and concessions that Israel has made over the years for the sake of peace, and the Palestinians' repeated rejections of those offers. Not only have Israel's peace proposals, which include ceding virtually the entire West Bank and parts of Jerusalem to the Palestinians, been rejected, but each Israeli concession has been met with even greater demands, no reciprocity, and frequently horrific violence directed at Israeli civilians. Thus, Prime Minister Netanyahu's agreement to suspend construction on the West Bank - a move heralded by Secretary of State Clinton as unprecedented by an Israeli government - has now led to a demand that Israel also halt all construction in East Jerusalem, which is part of Israel's capital. Meanwhile, Palestinians are upping the ante, with violent protests in Jerusalem and elsewhere. And the Obama administration's request that our Arab allies make some conciliatory gesture towards Israel has fallen on deaf ears.
Prior American presidents, beginning with Truman who recognized the State of Israel in 1948, have valued Israel as a close ally and have often come to its rescue. For example, it was Richard Nixon during the 1973 war, who resupplied Israel with arms, making it possible for it to snatch victory from a potentially devastating defeat at the hands of a coalition of Arab countries including Egypt and Syria.
President George W. Bush made it a point of protecting Israel at the United Nations and the Security Council wielding the U.S. veto against the unfair actions and sanctions that Arab countries sought to impose to cripple and, if possible, destroy, the one Jewish nation in the world. Now, in my opinion, based on the actions and statements by President Obama and members of his administration, there is grave doubt among supporters of Israel that President Obama can be counted on to do what presidents before him did - protect our ally, Israel. The Arabs can lose countless wars and still come back because of their numbers. If Israel were to lose one, it would cease to exist.
To its credit, Congress, according to the Daily News, has acted differently towards Prime Minister Netanyahu than President Obama. Reporter Richard Sisk wrote on March 24th, "Congress put on a rare show of bipartisanship for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday - a sharp contrast to his chilly reception at the White House. ‘We in Congress stand by Israel,' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told a beaming Netanyahu, who has refused to budge on White House and State Department demands to freeze settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank."
But Congress does not make foreign policy. It can prevent military arms from going to Israel, but cannot send them. Congress has no role in determining U.S. policy at the U.N. Security Council. The President of the United States determines our foreign policy - nearly unilaterally - under our Constitution. So those Congressional bipartisan wishes of support, while welcome, will not protect Israel in these areas, only the President can do that. Based on his actions to date, I have serious doubts.
In the 1930s, the Jewish community and its leadership, with few exceptions, were silent when their coreligionists were being attacked, hunted down, incarcerated and slaughtered. Ultimately 6 million Jews were exterminated in the Holocaust. The feeling in the U.S. apparently was that Jews who criticized our country's actions and inactions that endangered the lives of other Jews would be considered disloyal, unpatriotic and displaying dual loyalty, so many Jews stayed mute. Never again should we allow that to occur. We have every right to be concerned about the fate of the only Jewish nation in the world, which if it had existed during the 1930s and thereafter, would have given sanctuary to any Jew escaping the Nazi holocaust and taken whatever military action it could to save Jews not yet in the clutches of the Nazis. We who have learned the lessons of silence, Jews and Christians alike, must speak up now before it is too late.
So I ask again, where are our Senators, Schumer and Gillibrand? And, where are the voices, not only of the 31 members of the House and 14 Senators who are Jewish, but the Christian members of the House and Senate who support the State of Israel? Where are the peoples' voices? Remember the words of Pastor Niemoller, so familiar that I will not recite them, except for the last line, "Then they came for me, and by that time, there was no one left to speak up."
Supporters of Israel who gave their votes to candidate Obama - 78 percent of the Jewish community did - believing he would provide the same support as John McCain, this is the time to speak out and tell the President of your disappointment in him. It seems to me particularly appropriate to do so on the eve of the Passover. It is one thing to disagree with certain policies of the Israeli government. It is quite another to treat Israel and its prime minister as pariahs, which only emboldens Israel's enemies and makes the prospect of peace even more remote.
Ed Koch is the former Mayor of New York City.