Since his inauguration, Jewish leaders have pressed President Barack Obama to make a trip to Israel to repair and reaffirm his relationship with America's Middle Eastern ally. But as his first term comes to a close, expectations of a trip similarly diminish. Supporters and Jewish leaders mourn the missed opportunity for a president whose commitment to Israel has been questioned to assuage all doubts on the matter.
“It is an error,” former New York Mayor Ed Koch said to Politico. Koch recently reconciled with Obama after being critical of his record on Israel. “If he didn’t go this year and he didn’t go next year, it would result in an even greater reduction in Jewish support.”
Though Obama carried 78 percent of the Jewish vote last election, some pundits predict that he has lost a measure of Jewish support because of his policies concerning Israel. The stark language Obama used to describe land swaps and borders at the outset of Middle East negotiations struck many as anti-Israel.
“Much of the narrative that was out there was trumped up by Republicans,” Wasserman Schultz said to Politico. “I reject the notion that there was widespread concern other than it was from Republicans who cared more about partisanship than Israel.”
Some supporters worry that a fiercely pro-Israel speech to the United Nations and Obama’s immediate support of the Israeli diplomats briefly trapped by rioting in their embassy in Egypt. Former Representative Robert Wexler, the lead liaison to the Jewish community on the Obama campaign, told Politico that the White House gave “serious consideration” to a summer trip to Israel.
Domestic distractions got in the way, and there are no longer any specific plans for an Israel trip. Sources told Politico that the current administration wants to reserve the trip for when it can advance the peace process, rather than act as a political exercise to benefit the reelection campaign.
“For other presidents it might have been a less glaring omission than for a president who chose to make these issues a centerpiece of his foreign policy and has had such a difficult time showing that his ‘unique approach’ has succeeded at all, if not set back the prospects for peace,” Joshua Block, senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute and a former spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, explained to Politico. “In many ways, he is in a greater need of going to Israel.”