Mutual Interest and Mutual Respect

In an interview to the Spanish-language TV network Telemundo last Wednesday, President Barak Obama stated in response to a question relating to Egypt: “I don’t think we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy.”

This contrasts sharply with a US Department of State fact sheet released just over a year ago, which reported that “The United States requested $250 million in economic support funds and $1.3 billion in foreign military financing from Congress in FY 2012, in support of a revitalized partnership with Egypt and Egyptians.” (Indeed, Egypt is the second largest recipient of US foreign aid after Israel.)

President Obama’s response on Spanish TV came after protesters had raided the US embassy in Cairo the previous day, taking down the American flag and replacing it with an Islamic banner. His remarks also reflected the US Administration’s growing frustration and anger over efforts by Egyptian President Morsi to appease anti-American public opinion in his own country rather than forcefully condemn the violence in the Muslim world following the release of the trailer of the controversial film Innocence of Muslims.

Many Americans are no doubt asking themselves how it could possibly be that US ambassador Chris Stevens and three other staff members were killed in Benghazi, a city that their forces had helped liberate from the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi just a year earlier. Some of those who ransacked the consulate building were heard chanting: “Obama, Obama, we are all Osamas” in reference to the slain al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden.

What a different Middle East it is from the one that President Obama envisioned on June 4, 2009 in his well-meaning speech at Cairo University in Egypt in which he declared: “I’ve come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”

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6 Responses to Mutual Interest and Mutual Respect

  1. Rabbi Donald Berlin says:

    How is this derisive comment about President Obama supportive of Israel? President Obama has done more for Israel and its security than any other US President. FYI – the overwhelming Jewish view in the US is for bipartisan support of Israel – providing 3.1 plus billion US aid (25% 0f US foreign aid) and absolute US support of Israel in the UN votes through the US veto. That understanding is mirrored by most of the Israeli security officials in their public statements. Is it appropriate for Israel’s Prime Minister to inject himself in the US election in his support of his good friend, Governor Romney, who has admitted that his red line is no different than President Obama’s? It is extremist right-wing political operatives in the US who have tried to make Israel a wedge ssue in the US election. They have attacked rabbis who do not agree with them viciously as “rabbis who hate Israel” even though so many of these rabbis are long-time strong Zionist supporters. All polling here indicates that right-wing efforts are having no significant effect on Jews in the US. Israel is one issue facing Jewish voters but not the only one. And even for Jews who make Israel their primary consideration, there is strong feeling that Prsident Obama is an unquivocal supporter of Israel. What is happening is that Israel’s PM is beginning to irritate the American electorate for trying to coax the US into a protracted war with Iran which is strongly opposed by the US military. That said, yes, Iran is a threat. Yes, the changes of government in Egypt and Libya are troubling. Yes, Israel lives in a difficult part of the world. Yes, there is growing anti-Semitism in Europe. What’s new? As always, Jews will need to be smart and to behave smartly.
    Whatever our personal political concerns in the US and in Israel, we need to advocate clear and strong bipartisan support for Israel and to unite ALL Jews in its relationship with the Jewish State.
    Rosh Hashanah is a wonderful time for Jews who love Israel to be smart, proactive, bipartisan and inclusive.

    • Rabbi Michael (Micky) Boyden says:

      Dear Don,

      I don’t see how my remarks were in any way derisive of President Obama. I really do believe that the message he brought to Cairo was well-intentioned and that he hoped to bring healing to the relationship between the United States and the Muslim world. The fact that that has not happened is hardly his fault but rather a reflection on the nature of some of the more troublesome elements within the world of Islam.

      None of what I wrote had anything whatsoever to do with whom should be the next president of the United States of America. (Perhaps it has now become impossible for an Israeli to mention President Obama’s name without automatically being accused of taking a partisan position.) I share your view that the choice between Obama and Romney is one for you and your fellow citizens to make and not one in which outsiders like myself should become involved.

      Therefore, I think, with respect, that you are being over sensitive, perhaps understandably so in light of the path that Prime Minister Netanyahu has chosen to tread in his relationship with your presidėnt over how best to deal with Iran.

      With fond regards and best wishes for a shana tova,


      • Donald Berlin says:

        Dear Micky,

        Thank you so much for your thoughtful response to my post! I recognize that there is a perception that President Obama’s talk in Cairo was naive or worse, supportive of the Arab Spring. I believe that the jury is still out on the significance of that speech. Who could expect a population ruled by dictatorship to evolve suddenly into a progressive society over night? One thing is certain. The status quo under Mubarak was at the end of its time. President Obama seems to have stated what was the obvious for the Egyptians and for many other Arabs. The President seems to have been aware of this when he spoke and knew his words would be used by some against him.

        I agree with you. I may have reacted over sensitively to your comments. It is probably because i may have felt the tone as one resembling the Emergency Committee for Israel whose mantra has been that Israel is “being thrown under the bus” by this President and that anyone who disagrees with their view “hates Israel.” it is apparent that you are aware that the views of both President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu are as vigorously debated in the US as their differences are discussed in Israel. One thing is clear: each is dedicated to the survival and well-being of the State of Israel.

        May you and your family be inscribed for a shanah tovah b’vrachah!


      • Rabbi Michael (Micky) Boyden says:

        Amen, amen!

        L’shanah tovah umevorechet to you all!

  2. Dan Alexqander says:

    Dear Don and Mickey,

    I thought your dialogue modeled a kind of civility rarely witnessed these days when sensitive subjects are addressed publicly. I also found the dialogue enabled fuller exploration than had taken place with your initial posts. Blessings on you both!

    K’tivah V’Chatimah Tova,
    Dan Alexander

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