“President Obama has been the president most hostile to the nation of Israel in modern times” – this is the harsh if somewhat unsurprising verdict of firebrand Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
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In an interview with Haaretz on the sidelines of the AIPAC Policy Conference this week, the former Texas solicitor general laid out the various counts of his indictment of Obama. The U.S. President, Cruz said, has undermined Israel’s national security as well as the “special relationship” between Israel and the United States. And Obama’s talks with Iran and relaxation of sanctions against Tehran “may well be setting the stage for the slaughter of millions of Israelis – or millions of Americans.”
Cruz says the U.S. has no business pressuring or criticizing Israel and he denounced Obama’s “hectoring” interview with Jeffrey Goldberg in Bloomberg this week. By publicly pressuring Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu while “praising” Iranian President Rohani and “moderating his tone” towards Vladimir Putin, Cruz says, Obama has U.S. foreign policy “exactly backwards.”
“For the president of the United States to threaten Israel with international isolation and to not-too-subtly threaten a withdrawal of American support for Israel is profoundly misguided and dangerous both the nation of Israel and to the United States.”
And it’s not only Obama who is at fault, but the entire Democratic leadership. Citing his sponsorship of the now-stalled Iran sanctions bill submitted by Senators Mark Kirk and Robert Menendez, Cruz said by blocking the vote on the bill “President Obama and Hillary Clinton and [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid have abandoned their support for Israel and have paved the way for Iran to potentially acquire nuclear weapons.”
And AIPAC, Cruz states unequivocally, erred when it agreed to postpone the Senate vote on the Kirk-Menendez bill. “Everyone who stands with the nation of Israel should insist upon a vote and if President Obama wants to follow through with his threat to veto such legislation, he should be forced to do so.” Asked if he has made his position known to AIPAC leaders, Cruz said: “I have many faults, but an unwillingness to speak my mind is not one of them.”
Indeed, the 43-year-old graduate of Princeton and Harvard minces no words, though he speaks slowly and deliberately, dictation-style, formulating his thoughts in precise sentences that require almost no editing before publication. He is merciless in lambasting Obama and his Administration in apocalyptic terms that have made him a darling of the conservative and Jewish right while earning him ridicule, scorn but also fear on the Democratic left.
The Canada-born Texas senator, whose Cuban father opposed Castro, has a structured explanation for the current crisis in the Ukraine and he knows exactly where to pin the blame. “For five years under President Obama, America’s leadership in the world has consistently receded. As a direct consequence we’ve seen the spheres of influence of Russia and Iran and China expanding. For five years President Obama has alienated and abandoned our friends and allies and has pursued appeasement in negotiations with our enemies.
“Putin’s aggressiveness and act of war against Ukraine was eminently predictable, because Putin has worked systematically to reassemble the old Soviet Union, to expand Russia’s dominance, and to subjugate peoples who had been freed by the end of the Cold War. Putin acts with impunity because he fears no meaningful reprisals from President Obama.”
Cruz says Obama erred by failing to “embrace” the Ukrainian revolution from the outset. The president should have offered an immediate free trade agreement and economic incentives as well as “assisting with energy infrastructure so that America could begin exporting liquid natural gas to the Ukraine. The US, Cruz says, “could benefit American interests and at the same time help free Ukraine from the economic blackmail that it’s been subjected to by Russia.”
Cruz says that Obama’s pledge to “stand with the world community in ensuring there is a cost” to Russian’s invasion of Ukraine “are certain to produce no more than guffaws from Putin.” The US, he says, should move to expel Russia from the G-8, review existing treaties with Moscow, return to “previously agreed anti-missile facilities in Eastern Europe that President Obama cancelled in order to appease Putin” and implement the Magnitzky act, which allows the US to target individual Russian human rights offenders.
“The only language Mr. Putin understands is strength,” Cruz says, “but this is something the Administration seems incapable of providing.”
In words that will undoubtedly please right wingers in both Israel and the United States, Cruz states his opposition to any U.S. pressure on while refusing to get pinned down on his own attitude towards settlements or a two-state solution. “The US should not be pressuring or hectoring or blackmailing Israel to accept terms that in Israel’s judgment are inconsistent with protecting its national security,” he says. He accuses the Administration of “embracing a false moral equivalence between the Israelis and Palestinians” adding that “so long as Palestinians continue to embrace terrorism and refuse to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish nation, there will be no peace.”
He describes both settlements and the establishments of a Palestinian state as “issues that should be decided between the two sides.” The US, he adds, “should not be imposing its views on Israel any more than foreign nations should be imposing their views on US national security within our borders.”
He has no regrets over his outspoken opposition to the appointment of Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense at the hearings held by the Senate Armed Services committee last year, which earned him much media attention as well as criticism from some of his Republican colleagues. “I wish the Senate had heeded the warnings so many of us raised about Secretary Hagel’s extreme foreign policy record and about what it augured for President Obama’s foreign policy direction. Unfortunately, Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats demonstrated that partisan loyalty mattered more than standing with the nation of Israel. Every Senate Democrat in straight party line vote voted to confirm Secretary Hagel despite his extreme foreign policy views and publicly absolved him of the false moral equivalence that he had espoused just like President Obama between Israelis acting to defend themselves and their right to exist as a nation and Palestinian terrorists murdering innocent men, women and children.”
He also refuses to get drawn into the question of why American Jews persistently vote for Democratic Presidential candidates, despite his portrayals of their perfidy towards Israel. “That’s a decision for every Jewish voter to make, for every American to make,” he says, but adds: “I do not think any fair minded observer in the United States who is concerned about maintaining and strengthening our friendship with Israel can conclude anything other than that the President Obama and the Democrats are pursuing a course of action that grievously undermines the national security of Israel.”