Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) told a gathering of anti-war activists in Los Angeles on March 12 that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was misleading the public about Israel’s willingness to confront Iran alone, and that he had privately assured President Barack Obama that Israel would not go to war without U.S. backing.
The week before, Netanyahu had used a visit to Washington to convey the message that Israel was prepared to act alone if necessary.
That message was necessary, given the Obama administration’s record of wavering on Iran, and its public attempts to dissuade Israel from launching a pre-emptive strike in self-defense.
Netanyahu told President Obama in the Oval Office, in full view of the media:
Israel must have the ability always to defend itself by itself against any threat; and that when it comes to Israel’s security, Israel has the right, the sovereign right to make its own decisions. I believe that’s why you appreciate, Mr. President, that Israel must reserve the right to defend itself.
Netanyahu also told the delegates at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee:
2012 is not 1944. The American government today is different. You heard it in President Obama’s speech yesterday.
But here’s my point:
The Jewish people are also different. Today we have a state of our own. And the purpose of the Jewish state is to defend Jewish lives and to secure the Jewish future.
Never again will we not be masters of the fate of our very survival. Never again.
That is why Israel must always have the ability to defend itself, by itself, against any threat.
The clear policy differences on Iran between the Obama administration and the Israeli government have caused consternation and worry–not just to Israelis, but also to pro-Israel Democrats in the U.S., who know that the president’s reluctance to confront Iran has become a serious election issue.
Last September, Republican Bob Turner won a historic victory in a special election in the Democrat-dominated 9th congressional district of New York (Anthony Weiner’s former seat), largely on the basis of popular outrage over Obama’s treatment of Israel.
As Obama has felt political pressure to ratchet up his rhetoric on Iran, he has received praise from both sides of the political divide–and has faced a backlash from his far-left core supporters. That is the context of Waters’s remarks, transcribed and shown in the video below.
Waters told the anti-war activists:
And so I think that the President is on the right track at this point. I really think he’s on the right track. And I think that with his talk with Netanyahu that he, even though it may not have looked like it, that he and Netanyahu really did come to an understanding, that while we certainly have Israel’s back, we’re not prepared to go to war. We’re not prepared to go to war at this time. And I think they got that message across.
I think that message–you know, sometimes when they come out to the public, and Netanyahu in particular, he has to really appear really, really tough, and he made his point, he said over and over again, “We do not leave the decision about our security to anyone,” and that’s what, you know, people wanted to hear from him, you know. He knows what message to send in order to create some kind of sense of security of those people who are fighting, fighting, fighting. And so he did that. but believe me, behind closed doors, I’m sure that he said, “Mr. President, we’re worried, Mr. President, we’re scared, we have scared people–but I hear you loud and clear. And I know that we’re not going to simply take an action without the United States agreeing and supporting that action.”
And I guarantee you, the United States, with the deficit problem that we have, with these wars with Afghanistan and what has happened in Iraq, [we’re] not prepared to go to [war with] anybody.
Contrary to Waters’s assertions, Israel has previously launched pre-emptive strikes alone against enemy nuclear facilities on several occasions. In 2007, Israel launched a secret and successful air attack against a Syrian nuclear facility being built with help from North Korea. In 1981, Israel destroyed Saddam Hussein’s nuclear facility at Osirak in Iraq, and did so despite stern public criticism from the Reagan administration.
Waters’s statement, based on conjecture, appears to be an attempt to pander to, and renew the support of, the anti-war movement that supplied organizers, money and media to Obama’s 2008 campaign.
She is also, however, echoing left-wing skepticism about Netanyahu, which has been a feature of Democratic Party thinking about the Likud leader dating back to the Clinton years.
Her goal, above all, is to paint Obama as a powerful, effective diplomatic force. Yet in doing so, Waters is sending a signal of weakness to Iran–and accusing the leader of America’s closest ally of lying to the world.