The RJC, Bryna Franklin, and Daylight

Peter Beinart on how Obama may have the least daylight with Israel, compared to past administrations.

The Republican Jewish Coalition is out with a new ad featuring an older woman named Bryna Franklin, a “lifelong Democrat” and former chair of Democrats Abroad Israel, telling American Jews to vote for Mitt Romney. Franklin is particularly disturbed by “the recent comment by the president talking about daylight. There was never daylight between Israel and the United States, the United States and Israel. This is a new phenomena [sic] that means there’s [sic] changing. The special relationship does not exist.”

For a woman who has seen a lot of history, Franklin doesn’t remember much of it. First of all, the comment to which she refers is not “recent.” It occurred, according to The New York Times, almost three and a half years ago, when Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the newly elected president during a meeting with Jewish leaders that the peace process fared best when then was “no light” between American and Israeli leaders. Obama reportedly responded, “For eight years, there was no light between the United States and Israel, and nothing got accomplished.”

But actually, Obama was wrong. There was daylight between the Bush administration and Israel, just as there has been between every previous administration and Israel—which is why Franklin’s comment, and the entire RJC ad, is so absurd. The Bush administration refused Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s request for specialized bunker-buster bombs that would have helped Israel attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. And it abstained from—rather than vetoing—a 2009 U.N. resolution demanding that Israel cease its military operations in the Gaza Strip, a move that reportedly led Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to accuse Condoleezza Rice of "betraying" Israel.

And that was just under George W. Bush. After Israel attacked Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, the Reagan administration not only supported a U.N. resolution condemning Israel, but delayed arms sales to the Jewish state. When the Israeli government lobbied against the sale of American AWACS surveillance planes to Saudi Arabia, Reagan publicly declared that “it is not the business of other nations to make American foreign policy.”

In truth, it’s hard to think of a president who has put less “daylight” between the U.S. and Israel than Barack Obama. Yes, Obama pushed Benjamin Netanyahu to agree to a settlement freeze (something Ariel Sharon had agreed to during the Bush administration) and, yes, he gave a speech proposing negotiations based on the 1967 lines plus land swaps. But in both cases, the Obama administration never fortified its position with even the threat of sanctions against the Jewish state, and eventually backed down. Unlike the Bush administration, Team Obama has never failed to veto a U.N. resolution that Israel wanted vetoed. Team Obama’s weapons sales to the Jewish state have been more generous than its Republican predecessor. And compared with the Gipper, it’s not even close. As Haaretz’s Chemi Shalev has rightly observed, “If Obama treated Israel like Reagan did, he’d be impeached.”

So stop worrying, Franklin, the “special relationship” still exists. Unfortunately, so do idiotic ads from the Republican Jewish Coalition.