After a speech on Friday by Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta that implored Israel to make moves to thaw its cool relations with strategic partners and overcome its growing isolation, neoconservative commentators went bananas. Former Bush Mideast hand Elliott Abrams, speaking with neocon Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, wondered, “Does anyone wonder why Israelis don’t trust this administration to guard their security?” (In September, Abram’s himself said it was “true” that Israel and the U.S. enjoy “the best military-to-military relationship ever.”)
The most overblown response, though, came from right-wing don Bill Kristol. Speaking through a press release from the far-right-wing pressure group he heads, the Emergency Committee for Israel, Kristol attacked President Obama’s comments last weekend to Jewish donors that his administration’s security cooperation with Israel had reached new heights in the partnership. Kristol said:
Nobody believes President Obama when he claims, as he did last week, that he “has done more for the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration.” That’s because he hasn’t — and because President Obama and his administration keeps acting to weaken the security of the state of Israel.
The problem with Kristol’s statement, and one he seems to willfully ignore, is that there are at least a few people who don’t hold his stated opinion about the Obama administration’s work on Israel’s security, among them Israel’s leaders.
In a speech delivered to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) national convention in May, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called American security cooperation with Israel during the Obama administration “unprecedented”:
Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security. He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented. He spoke of that commitment not just in front of AIPAC. He spoke about it in two speeches heard throughout the Arab world. And he has backed those words with deeds.
In September, Netanyahu personally thanked Obama in a speech for his attentiveness and support in resolving a crisis when demonstrators overtook Israel’s embassy in Cairo.
The various U.S. security commitments to Israel are legion. In the same speech Kristol criticized, Panetta announced that “the U.S. armed forces and the [Israel Defense Forces] will conduct the largest joint exercises in the history of that partnership.” This spring, Israel used an expanded aid package from the Obama administration to develop the Iron Dome missile defense system that protects citizens of southern Israel from rocket attacks with a 93 percent success rate. And the U.S. has worked closely with Israel in slowing Iran’s nuclear progress, even reportedly partnering up to create the Stuxnet virus that hampered Iran’s nuclear centrifuges and selling Israel bunk-busing bombs. All the work has included unflinching diplomatic support for Israel in international fora.
In August, former Israeli prime minister and current Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that he could “hardly remember a better period of support, American support and cooperation and similar strategic understanding of events around us than what we have right now.” Last month, Barak said Obama is an “extremely strong supporter of Israel in regard to its security” and that his administration was “excelling in this.” He added: “I don’t think that anyone can raise any question mark about the devotion of this president to the security of Israel.” Maybe someone should tell Bill Kristol.