Sderot and Afterwards

I recall in July 2008 watching candidate Obama’s sympathetic address to the rocket-battered residents of the town of Sderot in southern Israel, in which he declared “an unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security” -- and being appalled by his performance. Judging from his body language, something furtive in his gestures, and the smarmy, brackish diction and rhetoric that have since made it impossible for me to listen to an Obama speech without grinding my teeth, it seemed clear that Obama was lying with every ostensibly heartfelt word. My “reading” of Obama’s disingenuousness, however, was plainly not shared by the troupe of Israeli officials earnestly bustling about and an audience filled with respect and enthusiasm for their artfully sincere guest.

How things have changed. The presidential aspirant who swore in Sderot that he would not let his daughters be terrorized by incoming missiles -- “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing” -- is now “outraged” by Israeli defensive actions jeopardizing Gaza civilians in the current Hamas-initiated conflict, regardless of preliminary warnings of impending strikes to eliminate or reduce civilian casualties. Obama appears oblivious to the terrorists’ recruiting their own citizens as human shields, conducting rocket and mortar launches from residential areas, occupying  hospitals as command centers, and using UNRWA schools as missile-storage facilities.

He now allows the FAA to suspend flights to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, resulting in the crippling of the Israeli economy; places a limit on arms shipments to the IDF; and instructs his secretary of state, the lamentable John Kerry, to confer with jihadist-loving, anti-Israel regimes like Turkey and Qatar to broker a ceasefire on terms favorable to Hamas.

Obama’s 2008 histrionics were bad enough, but the jubilant acclaim with which his speech was greeted by Israelis, Zionists, American Jews, and liberal voters was no less distressing. I said to a Jewish friend, an academic with strong left-wing proclivities, who was swooning with delight at Obama’s suave assurances, “Don’t trust this man for a second,” and was duly accused of cynicism and conservative bile.

I think now of Alan Dershowitz, who looked into the president’s eyes, as Bush looked into Putin’s, and saw a trustworthy soul gazing back at him. “I am confident,” Dershowitz wrote, “that President Obama will keep his promise ‘always [to] have Israel's back’ in the face of the continuing threats posed by Israel's enemies.”  It is mind-boggling how people, even intelligent people, appear so desperate to believe in fictions and illusions that valorize their cherished sense of social generosity, aquiline political insight, groundless hope and natal compassion that they cannot distinguish an indefeasible truth from a glaring lie, or tell the difference between a messiah and a confidence man.  As for my pro-Obama academic friend, he has been monumentally silent of late (though Dershowitz, in the fullness of his naivete, is still intent on pursuing hallucinations, regarding himself as “a supporter of Obama” despite his expediently revised assessment of the president’s policy toward Israel).

The Sderot episode seems a kind of epiphany of the president’s future actions vis-à-vis Israel, and indeed of his fecklessness and treacherous behavior toward America’s allies and fervent embrace of its avowed enemies, not to mention his fundamental disreputableness as a national leader.