If it is so difficult to explain, it probably isn’t true.
Barack Obama’s re-election campaign has produced a video over seven minutes long featuring praise for the president from Israeli leaders. The intent is to convince pro-Israel voters, and Jews in particular, to ignore the evidence of the past three years and support Obama once again.
(Jewish voters are a small but significant factor in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Florida; thus far the most noteworthy Jewish contribution to the 2012 campaign has been a large donation by billionaire Sheldon Adelson to Republican Newt Gingrich’s Super PAC.)
The video uses old and unrelated footage, including scenes from Obama’s visit to Israel during his 2008 presidential campaign (he has not visited since). Israeli leaders–including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu–are misleadingly depicted as if they are endorsing Obama’s re-election, when in fact they were addressing the media on other occasions.
Israeli leaders are hardly wont to criticize any U.S. president. For example, Israeli ambassador Michael Oren was critical of candidate Obama during the 2008 campaign, noting numerous differences between Obama and his opponent: “[John] McCain’s priorities are unlikely to ruffle the U.S.-Israel relationship; Obama’s are liable to strain the alliance, especially if, as recent polls predict, Netanyahu and the Likud return to power.” Once appointed to represent Israel, Oren sought opportunities to praise Obama’s performance. That is what allies typically do–except Obama, who has repeatedly rebuked Israel and its leaders.
Netanyahu finally responded, politely but firmly, in a media appearance at the White House that is not excerpted in the Obama campaign video, but etched in the memory of voters:
Democratic National Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz tried to use Netanyahu’s visit to declare the Israel issue off the table in the 2012 elections–a sign that Democrats know how weak their candidate is on the issue. Republicans swiftly, and correctly, declined.
The issue emerged in last fall’s historic special election in New York’s 9th congressional district, which was won by a Republican for the first time in nearly ninety years. Part of the problem Democrats face is that their own party’s think tanks and media machines are attempting to disrupt U.S. support for Israel–often using extreme, bigoted language. The Obama administration has been forced to distance itself from Democratic Party organizations like the Center for American Progress, whose anti-Israel views have provoked controversy.
The Israel issue, traditionally one on which both parties have agreed, will continue to be a source of contention in 2012. Look for Republicans to produce their own videos soon. If not more effective, they are certainly likely to be shorter: they have a simpler story to tell.