A Year Later, Obama Has the Same Problem

Posted on July 23, 2009 In Blog

One year ago today, having finally secured the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, Barack Obama stepped off “O-Force One” onto the tarmac of Ben Gurion Airport.
The candidate would visit Sederot and speak in support of Israel’s right to defend her citizens against Hamas’ rockets and of his intention, should he be elected, to thwart Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons. Candidate Obama would visit Yad V’Shem and the Western Wall.

On the eve of this critical and historic trip, I wrote that Obama’s task on his trip was “to convey convincingly” to Israelis and Jewish voters in the U.S. “that he is…committed to Israel in his kishkes.”

Well, Barack Obama was elected president, with a majority of the Jewish vote to be sure, but he is still struggling with the “kishkes test.”

The President continues to speak of his “unshakable commitment to Israel’s security,” yet he does not have the confidence of Israelis, even those on the Israeli left.

The President told American Jewish leaders with whom he met last week that he intends to recalibrate how his policies are presented in the public sphere, but there was little indication of substantive policy changes.

Israelis and supporters of Israel in the U.S. will continue to debate what ought to be done to get beyond the impasse.

But we would suggest that there need to be substantial changes in tone and substance, that move the relationship between the two nations and their leaders to a more positive and constructive footing.