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Obama and Israel

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It has become fashionable for many Republicans to assert that President Obama is not a friend of Israel. This is contradicted by President Obama's strong and consistent record of support for Israel and, also, by the clear assertions of prominent Israelis, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, President Shimon Peres, former Mossad Director Efraim Halevy, and Deputy Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to the U.S. Danny Ayalon, among many others.

It is worth a quick review of what these Israeli leaders have said about President Obama's friendship for Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed his deep gratitude to President Obama for intervening with Egyptian authorities to rescue Israeli diplomats in Israel's Embassy in Cairo, several weeks ago. Former Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy called President Obama's actions "leadership of historic dimensions."

Defense Minister Barak said he "can hardly remember a better period of [U.S. military] support." And Prime Minister Netanyahu stated that U.S.-Israel defense cooperation is "unprecedented".

President Shimon Peres said: "Thank you, President Obama, for your deep and moving and unwavering commitment to the peace and security of our land." And Deputy Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to the US during the George W. Bush years, Danny Ayalon, recently stated: ""We have not had a better friend than President Obama."

Despite clear evidence to the contrary, prominent Republicans -- to attempt to gain partisan advantage, and to divert attention from their own damaging positions on Social Security, education, science, environmental protection, and other critical issues -- insist on misrepresenting President Obama's record of support for Israel. Dan Senor, formerly a spokesman for George W. Bush's Provisional Authority in Baghdad, who considered a U.S. Senate run as a Republican, recently joined this campaign of distortion.

The most widely circulated false charges about President Obama include:

• A claim that President Obama asked Israel to return to the 1967 borders. This is flatly false. Defense Minister Barak explicitly stated that "The President [Obama] did not say that Israel should go back to the 1967 borders." And, to quote Prime Minister Netanyahu: "As President Obama said, the border will be different from the one which existed on June 4, 1967."

• An anonymous claim that the President sought to put "daylight" between the United States and Israel at a White House meeting. This claim has been contradicted by a number of participants in that meeting who say this absolutely did not happen.

• A distortion of a speech by President Obama at the U.N. General Assembly, where the President said that the U.S. does not support Israeli settlements -- thus reiterating the policy of every American president since 1967 -- while at the same time he criticized Palestinian terrorism and incitement.

• A claim by some Israeli media that President Obama "snubbed" Prime Minister Netanyahu at a White House meeting in the spring of 2010. This was a claim that was forcefully and thoroughly debunked by Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, who participated in the meeting. Not to mention the fact that President Obama has met with Prime Minister Netanyahu seven times since Netanyahu took office.

The facts are utterly at odds with what Senor and other Republican have claimed.

• Under President Obama, the Administration has recommended and the Congress has passed the largest-ever security assistance packages for Israel.

• To help insure Israel's qualitative military edge, the Obama administration has greatly expanded bilateral security cooperation between the two countries. The administration has provided unprecedented missile defense funding for Israel to help negate the threat of short- and medium-range threats from Hamas and Hezbollah.

• This administration succeeded (where the prior administration did not) in obtaining the support of Russia and China at the United Nations Security Council to enact the toughest sanctions ever passed to impede the Iranian nuclear threat.

• In contrast to prior Republican administrations, whose policies undoubtedly would be viewed as pro-Israel by the Republican critics of President Obama, the Obama administration has blocked all anti-Israel Security Council resolutions at the United Nations, and has firmly opposed Palestinian attempts to unilaterally seek statehood through the United Nations rather than direct negotiations with Israel.

Historically, those of us who care deeply about Israel's survival and security were sufficiently committed to the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship that we would never consider distorting the record of a good friend of Israel for partisan gain. Today, that kind of forbearance -- at least, among Senor and his Republican allies -- has been replaced by a reckless willingness to say or do anything to smear your opponent -- in this case, a true friend of Israel, President Barack Obama.

Mel Levine is a former Democratic member of Congress from California.