December 1st, 2011
11:44 AM ET
He’s faced criticism from some quarters that his administration’s support of Israel has been lackluster at best, but President Obama told a gathering of wealthy Jewish supporters Wednesday evening that no other administration has been as committed to the longtime U.S. ally.
“This administration – I try not to pat myself too much on the back – but this administration has done more in terms of the security of the state of Israel than any previous administration,” Obama said at a private high-dollar fundraiser in New York’s upper East Side attended by about 30 people who paid $10,000 each. The event was hosted by Jack Rosen, the chairman of the American Jewish Congress.
“Whether it’s making sure that our intelligence cooperation is effective, to making sure that we’re able to construct something like an iron dome so that we don’t have missiles raining down on Tel Aviv, we have been consistent in insisting that we don’t compromise when it comes to Israel’s security,” the president added.
The president’s less-than warm relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as his endorsement for Palestinian statehood negotiations to follow the pre-1967 lines has drawn fire from some critics in the Jewish community. Israelis argue that returning to the former configuration would leave population centers vulnerable and displace settlers.
Obama’s response, according to Reuters: “You're tired of him; what about me? I have to deal with him every day,"
The Jewish voting bloc is an important one for Obama, having supported him 5-1 in 2008. But the response from the Jewish community this cycle has been more tepid according to several reports. Adding to Democratic anxieties was Republican Bob Turner's 8-percentage point victory in September over Democrat David Weprin in a district held by Democrats since 1923. The heavily Jewish district’s swing toward the GOP was viewed as warning sign to some Democratic strategists who worry the same could happen nationally in 2012.
Rosen himself, while expressing his support for the administration’s efforts, acknowledged the grumblings before introducing the president.
“As you know many in the Jewish community are concerned,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mitt Romney, among the frontrunners for the GOP nomination who would clearly like to win a bigger slice of the Jewish vote, is disputing that the president is a strong advocate for Israel.
“Unfortunately, under the Obama Administration, U.S.-Israeli relations have hit a low not seen since the Jimmy Carter years," he said in a statement. "Words uttered behind closed doors in a campaign fundraiser in New York are one thing. Actions that have repeatedly thrown Israel under the bus are another.”