Republicans are trying to woo away Jews who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, hoping they have experienced "buyer's remorse." I, for one, have experienced no such remorse. I have gotten from President Obama pretty much what I expected when I voted for him: a pragmatic, centrist liberal who has managed--with some necessary compromises--to bring us the first important healthcare legislation in recent history, appointed excellent justices to the Supreme Court, supported women's rights, eliminated the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, maintained the wall of separation between church and state, kept up an effective war against terrorism and generally made me proud to be an American who cast my vote for him.
Even with regard to his policy toward Israel, which has generated much of the impetus for this "buyer's remorse" campaign, President Obama has kept his promises. During the last campaign, I and others urged candidate Obama to go to Israel and visit Sderot, which was being shelled by rockets from Hamas-controlled Gaza. He then went to Sderot and while standing in front of the lethal rockets that had inflicted so much damage--physical and psychological--to so many children and adults, this is what the candidate said:
"I don't think any country would find it acceptable to have missiles raining down on the heads of their citizens. The first job of any nation state is to protect its citizens...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."
And when the Israeli Defense Forces finally had to respond to the rocket terror with Operation Cast Lead, President Obama supported Israel's actions and his administration condemned the Goldstone Report as deeply flawed and biased against Israel.
Now, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is visiting Israel. I'm glad he is, because support for Israel must always remain bipartisan. No presidential election should ever become a referendum on support for Israel. Certainly the upcoming election will not be, because both candidates strongly support Israel's security. Each candidate must earn the vote of each citizen based on the totality of their records, and must not take the support of any group for granted.
The Obama Administration has worked hand in hand with Israel in developing the Iran Dome, David's Sling and Arrow Defense capabilities. It has approved the sale of F-35 stealth fighters to the Israeli Air Force. It has conducted large, joint military exercises and has coordinated intelligence operations with Israeli secret services. That is why I was not surprised when Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that he could:
"hardly remember a better period of...American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding...than what he have right now."
The greatest threat Israel faces today is from Iran, a nation ruled by anti-Semitic, Holocaust denying, terrorist-inciting Mullahs, who would sacrifice millions of their own citizens to destroy "the little Satan," which is how they refer to Israel (the United States being "the big Satan.") There are some, in both parties, who wrongly believe that a policy of "containment"--that is, allowing Iran to develop nuclear weapons but containing their use by the threat of tit-for-tat reprisal--is the right strategy. President Obama has explicitly rejected this benighted approach and has instead announced that his policy is to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, even if it takes military actions to do so. In the meantime, he has ratcheted up sanctions and diplomatic pressure while explicitly keeping the military option on the table.
Several months ago, President Obama invited me to the Oval Office to discuss his Iran strategy. He looked me in the eye and said, "I don't bluff." His actions with regard to Osama bin Laden and the Somali pirates who endangered Americans and threatened to kill them demonstrated his willingness to use force when warranted. So does his increased use of drones to target terrorists who are beyond the reach of capture. I believe President Obama when he says that Iran will not be allowed to develop nuclear weapons on his watch.
President Obama also understands that no sovereign nation can ever outsource the protection of its own citizens against a nuclear Holocaust. If Israel were to decide--as a last resort, after exhausting all diplomatic, economic and intelligence options--that it had no choice but to take military action against Iran's nuclear programs, I am confident that the Obama Administration would not condemn that action (as the Reagan Administration condemned Israel's correct decision to destroy Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981!) These are President Obama's own words on this important issue:
"Iran's leaders should have no doubt about the resolve of the United States - just as they should not doubt Israel's sovereign right to make its own decisions about what is required to meet its security needs."
The issue of Israeli security must be distinguished from the issue of Israeli civilian settlements in the West Bank. Israel's settlement policy is deeply controversial within Israel and among Jewish supporters of Israel in the United States. Both Republican and Democratic administrations have been critical of some Israeli decisions regarding the settlements. I have sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed with these criticisms. Reasonable supporters of Israel will have different views on the settlements and on how best to move toward a two-state solution that assures Israel's security.
When I decide who to vote for as President, I ask myself who will be best for America and for the world. An important component of my answer involves my assessment of the candidate's willingness and ability to protect Israel's security, since I strongly believe that a strong Israel serves the interests of the United States and of world peace. I am confident 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.