U.S. president Barack Obama’s support of Israel in the days since it began its latest Gaza offensive should have put to rest the claims, which were repeatedly made by conservative groups in millions of dollars worth of ads during the presidential election campaign, that he was hostile to Israel and couldn’t be counted on to support it in a crisis.
It’s likely that such claims, and those who make them, won’t go away – there is, after all, always some political profit in whipping up paranoia – but for honest observers, the last week should represent their definitive refutation.
One of the most visible illustrations of Mr. Obama’s record on Israel was starkly visible this weekend: His funding for the Israeli-developed Iron Dome rocket-defense system. In 2010, the president asked Congress to provide Israel with $205-million for production and deployment of Iron Dome, and then followed up with another $70-million earlier this year .
Iron Dome has performed impressively over the past week, knocking down over 300 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza into Israel. According to Arieh Herzog, who oversaw Iron Dome’s development for the Israeli Defense Ministry, “ It’s performed better than I anticipated ... When a system like this is relatively new, it usually performs with quite a significant number of misses. But the results have been very good.”
While Iron Dome’s success rate has been good, though, some of the celebration has been a bit much. Take a remark made this weekend by the U.S. ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, who tweeted , “If there’s a more meaningful American contribution to Israel’s security than the Iron Dome system, I don’t know what it is.”
Really? How about the 1979 Egypt-Israel peace treaty, signed by Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and facilitated by President Jimmy Carter, in which the leading Arab state recognized Israel and ended the state of war that had existed between them since 1948.
My purpose here is not to pick on a single 21-word tweet from ambassador Shapiro, who is an able diplomat and certainly aware of what Israel’s security requires, just to note that it’s easy to lose sight of what security means.
While it’s obviously altogether a great thing to prevent rockets from raining down on Israeli towns and homes, technological marvels such as Iron Dome should not obscure the fact that real, long-term security for Israelis means obtaining real security for Palestinians, too, through a two-state accord in which both peoples’ national rights are recognized, and in which the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is ended, completely.
This is where President Obama has, once again, an opportunity to show his support for the security of Israel, and for Palestinians, by beginning another push for a two-state solution. I don't have any illusions about how difficult this will be, given that the regional table isn't exactly set for peace-making t this moment. Even in better circumstances, this conflict has an amazing ability to frustrate leaders who attempt to grapple with it, and there’s a strong temptation, encouraged by very vocal pro status-quo factions in both Israel and the United States, to believe that the conflict can only be managed, not solved, and that that attempting to forge peace is naive. But what is truly naive is imagining that this status quo can continue.
Matthew Duss is National Security Policy Analyst at the Center for American Progress Action Fund in Washington.
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