Imagine, for a moment, what might have happened if the President had not taken the Prime Minister’s phone call.
It was the night of September 9. The lives of six Israelis locked in their embassy in Cairo hung in the balance, as a surge of angry Egyptians scaled the concrete wall surrounding the building, tore down the blue-and-white flag, and pillaged the offices. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to reach Mohammed Tantawi, head of Egypt’s Supreme Military Council, but somehow, he couldn’t be located. Desperate, Netanyahu called President Obama for help.
“I will do all that I can,” Obama told Netanyahu. And he did. Somehow, when the Americans called, Tantawi could be located, and soon enough the stranded Israeli security guards, dressed in keffiyahs and Muslim garb, were evacuated from the ransacked embassy.“I would say it was a decisive moment – fateful, I would even say,” Netanyahu recounted the next day.
Imagine if Obama hadn’t swiftly intervened, or if his line of communication with the current rulers of Egypt had frayed so badly that they wouldn’t take his call, either. Imagine if those six Israelis came home not in a military plane, but in body bags. The Middle East would be a frighteningly different place and Israel’s future even less secure. Obama, Netanyahu said, “applied all of the means and influence of the United States of America, which are certainly substantial. And I think we owe him special thanks.”
Could this be the same president who, his critics are alleging in an expensive new ad campaign, sides with Palestinians, wants Israel to forsake Jerusalem, sends American aid to terrorists, and attacks Israel in the United Nations? The Emergency Committee for Israel certainly wants you to believe all those things, though each claim is either an outright falsehood or one that irresponsibly distorts the truth. Organized by neo-conservatives Bill Kristol and Gary Bauer, ECI is spending gobs of money for flashy print, broadcast and internet ads and gigantic billboards contending that “you can’t be pro-Israel and pro-Obama,” an assertion discredited by its own proof texts.
There’s a legitimate argument to be made that Obama has not done enough to advance a two-state solution, nor to coax the Palestinian leadership away from the dangerous unilateralism that now propels its political strategy. One can also argue that his administration hasn’t done enough to hold the current Israeli government accountable for erecting roadblocks — and settlements — that make any peace agreement that much more elusive.
But the ad hominem attacks and character assassination fly in the face of the facts. And they willfully ignore the many behind-the-scenes actions that dramatize the stubbornly strong relationship between the U.S. and Israel — the kind of friendship that allows one leader to call another leader in the middle of the night with an urgent plea for help. Don’t take our word for it. Read this: “Much has been made of the strained relations between Netanyahu and the White House in recent days; but in this test of standing by one’s allies in a matter of life and death, Barack Obama came through. He merited to be Hashem’s instrument of salvation. The Jewish community all over the world offers him our heartfelt thanks.”
You might gather that’s not the usual language of a Forward editorial. It comes instead from Hamodia, which calls itself the nation’s only daily newspaper for Orthodox Jews. “Thank you, Mr. President,” the headline read. Yes, thanks.