President Obama continues to be pretty popular among American Jews. Not so much among Israelis.
It seems like every other day someone there is taking potshots at him. On Sunday, the well-known (in Israel anyway) writer, broadcaster and all-around celebrity Judy Shalom Nir-Mozes tweeted this hilariously racist joke:
Do you know what Obama Coffee is? Black and weak
HAHAHAHAHAHA! That is SO funny. Another terrific demonstration of the vaunted Jewish sense of humor. Who needs Seinfeld?
Less funny is the fact that Ms. Nir-Mozes is the wife of Israel’s Interior Minister, Silvan Shalom, who is also Netanyahu’s lead negotiator with the Palestinians (which involves a lot of sitting around and doing nothing) and responsible for U.S.-Israeli strategic relations.
Nir-Mozes later apologized to the president and everyone else. But it doesn’t change the fact that her tweet represents the thinking of a vast swath of Israelis who just can’t stand the president.
More serious than Nir-Mozes’ foot-in-Twitter disease is the latest book by Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
Writing in the Forward, Lisa Goldman takes on Oren’s Obama-bashing:
Michael Oren has a new book to sell — a memoir called “Ally” about his years as Israel’s ambassador to Washington. To maximize sales, the former diplomat is apparently willing not only to blow up what remains of the very fragile Obama-Netanyahu relationship, but also to further divide the American Jewish community over its relationship with Israel.
Over the past week, Oren has accused Barack Obama, in a widely circulated Wall Street Journal op-ed , of having deliberately undermined the alliance between Israel and the United States. He has said that Jews who intermarry lose their empathy for Israel. And he has speculated that Obama suffers from a daddy complex as a result of having been abandoned by two Muslim fathers. This Muslim daddy complex, Oren speculates in a piece for Foreign Policy, explains why Obama’s Middle East policy is overly conciliatory toward the Muslim Arab world.
Oren was recently elected to the Knesset on the list of Kulanu, a brand new reformist party with socially progressive pretensions and a nationalist bent. Needless to say, his book is causing waves. The current ambassador is ticked off. His own party leader, Finance Minister Moshe Kahalon, has distanced himself from the book. Netanyahu, in his typical display of political courage, has not said anything. I bet he also laughed his head off about Nir-Mozes’ witty tweet.
After that tweet, Silvan Shalom defended the White House from accusations of abandoning Israel:
Speaking at an event in London, the minister, who is also tasked with managing a strategic dialogue with the US, said firmly: “I can tell you very, very clear and sharp, that President Obama is standing with Israel in the most intimate and important issues for the safety and security of people of the State of Israel.”
You’ll recall that a few weeks ago, when Treasury Secretary Jack Lew was jeered at the Jerusalem Post conference, Israeli government officials once again went out of their way to defend Obama’s record on defensive coordination with Israel.
So which is it? Is the president the antisemitic Israeli-hater that most right wing Zionists and a growing majority of Israelis imagine him to be? Or is he the staunch protector of Israel’s security?
It would be awfully nice if the prime minister himself would clarify this for his constituents and many admirers. But then he would have to overcome his sullen spite for a man who has done nothing more nefarious than urge Israel’s government to stand by the commitments it (kinda, sorta) made about progressing toward a two-state solution and cutting back on settlements.