The GOP presidential field is quick to criticize President Barack Obama’s relationship with Israel. But concerns about Obama’s lack of support for the Jewish state are nowhere to be found in recent statements by Israeli officials. On Thursday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak praised Obama’s commitment to Israel’s security. Barak, who last month characterized Obama as an “extremely strong supporter of Israel,” told Israel Radio:
We are asked, sometimes, whether Obama is really a soft appeaser. To that, I say: ‘Go ask Osama bin Laden.’
Earlier this week, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta emphasized that “there are no options off the table” in dealing with a potential Iranian nuclear weapons program and General Martin Dempsey sought to dispel concerns raised in an interview last month in which he suggested the Israel might not warn the U.S. before undertaking a unilateral attack against Iranian nuclear facilities. Yesterday, Dempsey told CNN:
We are trying to establish some confidence on the part of the Israelis that we recognize their concerns and are collaborating with them on addressing them.
Barak also emphasized that Israeli-U.S. defense coordination was “absolutely fine” and sought to downplay rumors of tensions between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:
They don’t have to love each other. It’s enough that they respect and understand that no one works as if they were alone, in a bubble.
Barak’s comments come as Republicans seek to portray Obama as weakening Israel’s security. Earlier this month, Bill Kristol, speaking through a press release for his far-right-wing pressure group, the Emergency Committee for Israel, said the White House “keeps acting to weaken the security of the state of Israel.” And GOP presidential candidates speaking at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s Candidates Forum took turns criticizing Obama’s handling of Iran and commitment to Israel’s security. Rick Perry accused the administration of a “torrent of hostility” toward Israel and Mitt Romney claimed, “Over the last three years President Obama has… chastened Israel.”
But Barak’s praise of Obama’s relationship with Israel and Netanyahu’s appreciation for the White House’s “unprecedented” security cooperation would seem to stand in direct contradiction with the right-wing voices seeking to portray the administration as insufficiently committed to Israel’s security.