Attacking Obama

Does He Really Love Sheldon Adelson?

Sheldon Adelson has an oped out attacking Barack Obama for his “lack of sympathy—or even outright hostility—toward Israel,” the country toward which Obama has helped direct more money and military support than any of his predecessors. Even by the standards of the genre, it’s not a very sophisticated take. Consider this chestnut:

Think about Obama’s anti-Israel friends and mentors—radicals like Rashid Khalidi, Frank Marshall Davis, Jeremiah Wright, or the late Edward Said, the virulently anti-Israel professor under whom Obama studied. Has he made anti-Israel promises to them? Is Obama’s campaign rhetoric in support of Israel only creating “space” till after the election?

Ah, yes. Forget Obama’s actual record and actual Mideast advisors. I can just imagine the president on the phone to Wright or Khalidi (Said is harder since the man is dead) cackling as he talks about his plans to screw the Jewish state next year since, as everyone knows, the political pressure in Washington to support Israeli policy evaporates in a president’s second term.

But the most revealing thing about Adelson’s oped—and so many like it—is that Adelson never actually says what policies he believes either Israel or America should pursue. The implication of the oped is that Obama should support Israel no matter what its government does. But Adelson himself famously rejected that view in 2007 when he denounced AIPAC for backing the Israeli government’s push for more aid to the Palestinian Authority, saying, “I don’t continue to support organizations that help friends committing suicide just because they want to jump.”

So Adelson can’t want Obama to support whatever the Israeli government does. More likely, he wants Obama to support this Israeli government—a government openly hostile to a Palestinian state near the 1967 lines—because Adelson is himself openly, vociferously hostile to a Palestinian state, which he’s called “a stepping stone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people.”

But Adelson can’t say that because doing so would require making an actual policy argument, one that would place him in opposition to the stated position of much of the American Jewish leadership, not to mention most American Jews. So Adelson suggests that what really divides Obama and Mitt Romney isn’t their policy views—Obama thinks the two state solution is important and necessary; Romney has basically thrown in the towel—but rather that one of them really likes Israel and Jews and one of them just doesn’t.

It’s typical of the infantile “does he really love us” conversation that overtakes the American Jewish community every four years around election time. I actually think Obama has a lot of sympathy for a particular strain of Zionism and Jewish identity (just not the strain that Adelson admires). But even if he didn’t, even if Obama finds the melody to Hatikva tedious and considers cholent gastronomically offensive, what matters more is whether he—and we—believe that Israel is better off trying to create a viable Palestinian state or not. Whatever his flaws, Obama is forthright on the subject. Mitt Romney—and now Sheldon Adelson—are not.