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Will American Jews Accept the Obama Administration's "Charm" Offensive?

I suspect there may be something wrong with many of the leading lights of the American Jewish community, who are succumbing to the phony charm offensive of the Obama administration.  Maybe it’s a case of denial.  As a two-week-old report by Laura Rozen of Politico put so well, “The White House is engaged in an aggressive effort to reassure Jewish leaders that the tense relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government that has played out in public in the past few months does not signify any fundamental change in U.S. policy.”  The problem is precisely that they are just reassurances which do not in any way indicate a fundamental shift in Obama’s new anti-Israeli policy.

One White House spokesman told Rozen that the administration has always “been consistent in our rhetoric.” Rhetoric is one thing; reality, however, is another. Sending administration spokesmen to say kind words is so transparent a PR maneuver that it is rather amazing that anyone thinks it will work. But the reasons for it are quite clear. As a congressional staffer put it, they are all concerned “that the White House is losing the Jewish community,” and that concern might well translate into  Republican votes in the near future. The effect of the ads I discussed earlier by Elie Wiesel, Ronald Lauder and David A. Harris could simply not be ignored.

Yet liberal Jewish groups, grasping at straws in the hope that Obama will stand with Israel and the special relationship between the U.S. and the Jewish state, have quickly sought to reassure their members that all is well, despite evidence to the contrary. All it took for Hadassah to inform  its members that all is well were some carefully chosen words from David Axelrod. On April 29th, a backgrounder alert sent to its members informed them that “the Obama administration has responded to concerns from the Jewish community with a letter to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and speeches by prominent administration officials to Jewish organizations, affirming the administration’s support for Israel and the need for peace.”

Last Friday, I attended the evening plenary session at the American Jewish Committee national conference in Washington, D.C., where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton received a standing ovation and a very warm reception. Her speech was a perfect example of reassuring spin meant to wow the crowd. “We know,” Clinton told the audience, “that Israel faces unique challenges. A nation forced to defend itself at every turn, living under existential threat for decades. We Americans may never fully understand the implications of this history on the daily lives of Israelis – the worry that a mother feels watching a child board a school bus or a child watching a parent go off to work. But we know deep in our souls that we have an unshakable bond and we will always stand not just with the Government of Israel but with the people of Israel.”

Instead of addressing the specifics and the reasons Lauder, Ed Koch and others have pointed to, Secretary Clinton merely asserted “that there has been some of what he called ‘noise and distortion’ about this Administration’s approach in the Middle East. Over the past month, we have attempted to remove any ambiguity. The President and this Administration have repeatedly reaffirmed our commitment to Israel’s security in word and in deed.” On Iran, for example, she said, “We are now working with our partners at the United Nations to craft tough new sanctions. The United States is committed to pursuing this diplomatic path. But we will not compromise our commitment to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”