Tuesday, February 24, 2015

DEAR MR. SARGEANT

Yesterday I received a letter via e-mail from Michael Sargeant, the Executive Director of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Mr. Sargeant explained to me how important, indeed, “critical,” it is to elect Democrats in the 2016 election, and he asked me to sign up to support the effort.
Here is the response I sent to Mr. Sargeant:
Dear Mr. Sargeant:
I am writing in response to your e-mail on behalf of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, in which you asked me to sign up to join the fight to elect Democrats in 2016. Unfortunately, I must decline at this time. I would like to explain why.
I voted for President Obama in the 2008 California primaries and in the general election. I was a lifelong Democrat until a few years ago. At that time I re-registered as a Decline-to-State. I did so in protest of President Obama’s actions and policies toward Israel. I felt that he had misrepresented that he would be a strong supporter of Israel. Here is the letter I wrote to the President at the time.
I acknowledge and appreciate the fact that the Administration has supplied key military equipment to Israel (other than when it briefly suspended such shipments in last summer’s war) and that he has been a backstop at the UN and other world bodies. However, in the general diplomatic sphere and in public statements and positions, he has been terrible, blaming Israel and its leadership at every turn. Moreover, his positions have hurt rather than helped advance a process toward a two-state solution, something I have long-favored.
Despite the fact that I re-registered as a Decline-to-State as a protest, I continued to vote and to support mostly Democrats for office. That is now in question, however.
I am deeply disturbed about recent events relating to Iran, U.S. post-war foreign policy, and the behavior and attitude of the Obama Administration and some Democrats. Regarding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech, Speaker Boehner reportedly breached protocol in extending the invitation. The Israeli Ambassador may have participated. It was wrong. Express your displeasure and move on.
Instead, the Administration has made a major issue out of it and is basically promoting a boycott of the Prime Minister’s speech. The Administration is using the breach of protocol as a way to discredit the Prime Minister, undermine his efforts to call attention to the threat of a nuclear or near-nuclear Iran, and to stop debate. I find this conduct outrageous.
Any breach of protocol pales in comparison to the issues at stake here: Iran getting a nuclear weapon, Iran becoming a regional and perhaps world power, and, if you believe recent essays, a radical change in the post-war approach to American foreign policy.



These issues should be broadly and publicly aired. Instead, efforts are being made by the Administration to extinguish debate and to avoid Congress playing a role. A visiting prime minister was invited by the leader of one of the co-equal branches of government to speak on these issues, which are existential to his country (and, by the way, to my daughter and future grandchildren, and sometimes me).
It is unseemly for the Administration and for members of Congress to promote a boycott of the speech or to continue to try to defame and discredit the leader and his motives. I am sure the Administration would be having none of these problems if the Prime Minister was not the major spokesman in the world pointing out the dangers of its policies. The Administration apparently had no problem facilitating private lobbying in favor of its policies by British Prime Minister Cameron, lobbying that was not aired publicly and could not be challenged.
So, I say enough with problems with the invitation. Get over it. Pay respect to the Prime Minister of an ally. And publicly and freely debate the issue and the vision that gives rise to it. Our futures, and the futures of our children and grandchildren, could depend on how it is or is not resolved.
The Administration’s willingness to allow Iran to be near nuclear capability and to relax constraints after 10 years apparently is part of a broader vision for a new post-war arrangement of nations. As prior Presidents did, these major changes should be publicly announced and widely discussed. Either President Obama has deliberately hid the ball, or today’s media does not cover such radical public policy debates as they once did, or I simply missed it. Whichever, I feel like I and many millions of concerned Americans have been duped.
Instead of a public airing, we have misrepresentations and a smear campaign directed at the prime minister of the country most likely to bear the immediate consequences.
I recall a few years ago when President Obama visited Israel. He was invited to speak to the Knesset, as is traditional for foreign leaders. He chose to skip it, which was thought to be quite insulting. Instead, he went to the convention center in Jerusalem and spoke to young people, who he implored to pressure their government to take certain actions that were supposed to help the prospects for peace. Did anyone object to this breach of protocol and this interference in domestic political debates? The press noted it for a day or two. Prime Minister Netanyahu said nothing publicly. They showed respect and deference.
In contrast, the Obama Administration cannot overlook a breach of protocol by Speaker Boehner so as to graciously welcome the visit of a PM of a staunch ally and to allow him to speak to Congress on an issue of existential consequence to Israel and of crucial consequence to the U.S. and the world. Instead, it is encouraging a boycott. Moreover, it is also reportedly boycotting the annual conference of a group of American citizens gathering to petition their government, supposedly to further punish the PM.
I was involved in California politics for about 30 years. I cannot think of a lower, less respectful display than the one currently being orchestrated and/or encouraged by the Obama Administration.
Mr. Sargeant, I will defer joining you in supporting Democrats until I see how this plays out. I would like to see the Obama Administration and Democratic members of Congress give Prime Minister Netanyahu the welcome and the respect a visiting leader of a strong ally deserves. I would like to see the President and the Democratic members listen to his speech and broadly and publicly debate the merits of the deal with Iran that seems to be coming together. I would like to see the President’s now-apparent post-war reconfiguration of world power vigorously and widely debated.
When I see the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress giving such respect to the Prime Minister of Israel and debating an issue crucial to Israel, to Americans, and to the world, I will again give thought to supporting Democrats.
Thank you for your consideration.
Alan Edelstein
—————————-
We constantly hear how Prime Minister Netanyahu insists on coming to speak to Congress because he believes it will help him in his upcoming election. (That is, when we are not hearing that he is coming to interfere in American politics.) Yet the latest polls in Israel show that most Israelis do not want him to speak in D.C. as they fear that he is antagonizing the Obama Administration. Israelis understand and appreciate the importance of Israel’s friendship with America.
And yet Netanyahu insists on coming. How is that possible? He is not dumb and he is the consummate politician.  While many in the public find it hard to believe, once in a while a politician does something because he feels very strongly on an important issue regardless of the politics. Not often, but once in a while.
Netanyahu carries a great weight regarding protecting the Jewish people. Both his father and father-in-law’s histories bear heavily. Begin’s lessons bear heavily. Hard to believe, I know, but it may be beyond politics at this point.
——————————————-
“Proportional.” Remember that word?  It was one of the favorite words of the summer, when Israel took action against Hamas in Gaza because thousands of rockets had been fired into Israel and because tunnels aimed at slaughtering innocent Israelis were discovered.
The media were full of charges that Israel’s actions were not “proportional.” The doctrine of proportionality in warfare was completely misused.
Now one Jordanian pilot is killed, albeit in a most barbaric manner. Jordan counters by bombing ISIS and who-knows-what-else to bits. Twenty-one innocent Egyptian Coptic Christians are beheaded. Egypt counters by laying down a blanket of bombs and promises more. The world cheers them on.
Anyone hear the word “proportional?” Anyone interested in applying or misapplying the doctrine of proportionality?

(Originally published in The Times of Israel)

For speaking engagements:  ae@edelsteinstrategies.com

23 comments:

  1. The elected leader of a staunch ally who has the SAME AIM as the US - that is, to curb the increasingly dangerous power of a hostile country - is denigrated and vilified for wishing to explain why the proposed plan has flaws. If President Obama truly wished to stop the threat of Iran increasing its nuclear capabilities then why would he be so vehemently opposed to the Congress hearing alternative suggestions to achieve exactly this?

    It is hard not to draw the conclusion that President Obama does not genuinely wish to restrain Iran.

    If it is simply a matter of Obama’s ego –HIS plan or no plan – then that is a damning reflection on the so-called leader of such a great country. One has to ask, why is he not upholding the great principles of democracy and free speech in America?

    ReplyDelete
  2. You assume the US aka the Obama administration has a goal to curb the nuclear ambitions of Iran. Actually the opposite is true. The Obama goal is to realign The US's position in the world and to prevent it, anytime in the future, from engaging in world "policing" activity. Backing away from Israel, strengthening Iran, letting ISIS expand, weakening the US military, and burying the US economy in debt is just all part of the plan.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Thank you Alan for the well written, insightful blog. We are very fearful for the future. We wonder if what we are seeing is akin to the pre-WWII failure to stop a bully (such an inadequate word).

    ReplyDelete
  4. Amazing. Such clarity! Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  5. The Dem party left me when Obama became the candidate. That was game changer. I never voted for him and have become a registered Rep since that fateful election.









    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alan, We are finally on the same page! I didn't go to the AIPAC policy conference again this year because I can't afford to anymore since I am retired. I did attend 21 consecutive policy conferences when I could. However, Gabe and Tamy were there and heard Bibi Netanyahu's speech. My legacy with AIPAC lives on. I love to hear about your strong support for our Jewish Homeland, Israel. I hope you will contact Ari and Keren again when you are there. My best to you and Dana. Allen Erle

      Delete
  6. Welcome to the GOP. We have been waiting for you.

    ReplyDelete
  7. You speak the thoughts I have been trying to formulate in my head. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  8. You are my new favorite hero

    ReplyDelete
  9. I support everything you are saying and will add that the President's objection to allowing the Prime Minister to speak just because his position differs is un-American and in conflict with our system of checks and balances. This is not the America I have always loved and these are not the Democrats I have always supported. If they can't right the wrongs of the Obama administration, I will become a Republican, just as my father was and as my husband is.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Sadly, our president continues on the path of retreat from The values for which our country ought to stand. Continue speaking out passionately for truth and justice.

    ReplyDelete
  11. God bless yu and well said the president has had a poison policy when it comes to our friends in the middle east.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Such a thoughtful letter...too bad some junior assistant will likely skim it and toss it into the "negative" pile or round-file.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I applaud you Alan for this outstanding letter and I completely agree with your assessment of the dire effects of Obama's position related to Israel and his boycott of the Prime Minister's speech to Congress. Extremely disturbing.

    Thank you for your excellent work

    ReplyDelete
  14. Very well documented and lucidly expressed. Did not know you were once a committed democrat. One thing I don't share with you -- the regret of having voted for Obama. I did not vote for him . Saw from his debate with Hillary Clinton how little he understood and appreciated the tactics of that part of the world. In the meantime he managed to squander six years during which the Iranians managed to give him the spin while they progressed in their path toward becoming a nuclear power.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Boehner's invitation to the Prime Minister went through the identical protocols of the invitation to him in 2011.

    The entire spat with the White House over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to speak to Congress was entirely manufactured by the White House.
    The truth about the incident, in which the White House complained that it was terribly wrong for Netanyahu to accept House Speaker John Boehner’s (R., Ohio) invitation without first notifying the administration, was made evident by a correction added to a New York Times article that greatly changed the timeline of events that effected the situation.
    Here’s the correction, added on Jan. 30, a day after the article was published:
    Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I called my congresswoman & senators telling them that They should go to hear Netanyahu. You can get the numbers online to do the same.

    ReplyDelete
  17. As always Alan you are thoughtful and passionate. I fall somewhere in the middle of this debate. I think your Prime Minister is off base allowing the Republicans to use hm as a foil against the President. On the other hand I agree that Obama's approach to the middle East has been confusing. This is the main reason I am Ready For Hillary.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Unfortunately, Obama did not learn to play well with others - a simple skill we develop in kindergarten. This behavior is akin to picking up your toys and leaving the sandbox when you don't get your way. It is far from what we need in a leader - the ability to achieve common ground, build consensus and leave a massive ego at the door.

    ReplyDelete
  19. I think both of these men have an ego problem. No matter what, it is wrong for Netanyahu to use partisan politics and will end up costing him in the end. I also think it is stupid of the members of congress to boycott the speech.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Netanyahu would like to be the tail that wags the dog. Sure there is a lot at stake here but who actually knows the answers to the ME. Netanyahu has shouted his concerns for 2 years and we the concerned people of the US, are well aware of them. You have to deal with an enemy and put proper safeguards in place. The President will need Congress for any action. Israel is now working militarily with Egypt and probably Jordan also, and talking to the Saudis. Iran has now formed a 100,000 Shiite militia to fight in Iraq against ISSIS’', and we know it. It took us 5 years to form an Iraqi army which in one day was reduced to nothing and now 6 mos. later may be 25,000 or less. Since Bush stumbled in the ME has become more complicated, Obama and Congress have Israel’s security always in mind and it has been demonstrated many times.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Excellent response. I can only hope that it will be forwarded up the line so that the Obama administration can see how pissed we care with his policies, and how this will affect our approach in the next election.

    ReplyDelete