How badly has Barack Obama’s support eroded among Jewish voters over Israeli-US relations? Enough to send Rahm Emanuel to a meeting with rabbis in the White House to offer an apology. Saying that the Obama administration had “screwed up the messaging” about his support for Israel, Emanuel promised that the White House would work to undo the damage:
The Obama administration has “screwed up the messaging” about its support for Israelover the past 14 months, and it will take “more than one month to make up for 14 months,” White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said on Thursday to a group of rabbis called together for a meeting in the White House.
“During the elections there were doubts about President Obama’s support for Israel, and now they have resurfaced,” Emanuel said, according to one of those who participated in the meeting. “But concerning policy, we have done everything that we can that is in Israel’s security – and long-range interests. Watch what the administration does.” …
These comments came during the second of two White House meetings with a carefully selected slate of 15 rabbis from across the US representing the Orthodox, Reform and Conservative streams. The first meeting took place on April 20, shortly after Obama was widely perceived to have treated Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shabbily during their last White House meeting.
In addition to Emanuel and Ross, the other administration officials in the meetings were Dan Shapiro, the deputy national security adviser who supervises policy for Israel and its neighbors; Susan Sher, the chief White House liaison to the Jewish community; and Danielle Borin, associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and special assistant to Vice President Joe Biden.
Ross opened Thursday’s meeting, saying he hoped that the rabbis “had seen the manifestations of the change” of the administration’s tone since they met the first time a month ago.
When did the Obama administration become aware that they had “screwed up the messaging”? About the same time that Jewish voters began abandoning them. That would have been shortly before Chuck Schumer scolded them over fumbling the alliance, and perhaps just after leaking that Obama would “impose” a peace plan on Israel. With the midterms looking disastrous, Emanuel and his team want to shore up support in one of the most reliable voting blocs Democrats have.
The problem is that it’s not just the messaging. Obama set peace negotiations back to pre-Oslo days by demanding a halt to building in an area of Jerusalem that hadn’t ever been a hurdle to talks in the past. He insulted Israel’s Prime Minister in a visit to the White House, and has repeatedly demanded concessions from Israel as preconditions to talks with an enemy that still refuses to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. This White House has objectively been the most hostile American administration to Israel since its founding.
If they just try to spin the messaging while keeping to the same strategies, don’t expect it to fool anyone. Pleasing words mean less and less after the track record of the last sixteen months. This looks like a desperate plea from Emanuel to the rabbis asking them to ignore Obama’s obvious hostility towards Israel in order to get more Democrats elected.
Update: Pablo asks a great question in the comments: “What, Samantha Power couldn’t make it?” And let’s not forget last month’s leak to the New York Times about the White House intention to “balance” the alliance with Israel with “other interests.”