Iran's nuclear program is a far greater threat to Israel than the Obama administration's "tiff" with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) told a hastily scheduled town hall meeting at a synagogue in Woodland Hills, California, Wednesday night.
Sherman compared the drive for sanctions against Iran to "a car that's been going 5 mph for the last 13 years," and now "needs to go 85." He said under the Obama administration "the car's going 7 mph instead of 5 mph" and lamented, "This president is doing a very little bit at the very last minute."
The congressman from California's 27th District, which includes part of the east San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, passed up several opportunities to offer full-throated support of President Barack Obama.
Sherman said the president ought to speak out personally against the Palestinian Authority's incitement of hatred against Israel in its media and its schools. He said it should be denounced "at the highest levels, not relegated to lower-level folks at the State Department."
Asked why the president has not yet visited Israel, Sherman answered flatly, "I don't know."
Asked if the president feels as strongly as he does about the danger of Iran's nuclear program, he answered, "No president has felt as strongly as I do."
Asked why the White House did not condemn the recent renaming of a public square in the West Bank in honor of a Palestinian terrorist, Sherman said, "It should have been condemned at the presidential level and it wasn't."
The biggest applause of the evening came in response to the question, "Given President Obama's treatment of Israel, do you think more Jews will vote for the GOP?"
Sherman smiled at the raucous reaction and said he was confident that the people applauding had not voted for Obama the first time. Temple Aliyah's Rabbi Stewart Vogel asked Sherman if he would like to poll the group, and a show of hands revealed the crowd of approximately 300 people to be about 40 percent Obama voters, by Vogel's estimation.
Questions were submitted in writing and the congressman did not take questions on any other issues, inviting the audience to bring their concerns about health care and taxes to his next scheduled town hall meeting on July 11.
Sherman concluded by reminding Rabbi Vogel and the audience that fifteen members of Congress live within driving distance of their location. "I came," he said. "I don't know whether the other fourteen would have or not."
Temple Aliyah is located in the 30th congressional district, which is represented by Democrat Henry A. Waxman.
That's the news, brought to you by your faithful correspondent, America Wants To Know, who was personally in attendance at this town hall meeting. We can tell you that it was a courteous crowd of concerned citizens without activists, protesters, interruptions, or fights.
It was disturbing to hear a member of Congress minimize the significance of President Obama's condemnation of Israel over the announcement of new housing construction in Jerusalem. It was troubling to hear him dismiss the humiliating treatment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during last week's White House visit.
"A tempest in a teapot," Rep. Sherman said repeatedly. "Five years from now, nobody's going to remember it."
Whether anyone remembers it or not, the damage will be done. The message will be sent to the world that Israel is a bad actor, and therefore hostility to Israel is justified and appropriate.
The message will be sent that Hezbollah terrorists firing rockets over Israel's northern border and Hamas terrorists firing rockets from Gaza have a good point.
The message goes out that Israel's conduct is so egregious that even the United States can't take it anymore.
Is that a message the United States of America ought to be sending?
For one thing, it encourages every anti-Semite on the planet to come out of the dark and share his thoughts live on C-SPAN's call-in shows.
More importantly, it undercuts the strength of diplomatic language. How effective is it to characterize Iran and North Korea as outlaw nations defying the will of the "international community" for building nuclear bombs after you've characterized Israel the same way for building apartments?
Congressman Sherman emphasized that Israel receives $2.8 billion in armaments annually as a gift from the U.S. taxpayer. Actions, he said, speak louder than words, and regardless of the words that have come out of the Obama White House, not one penny in aid to Israel has been cut or will be cut.
The trouble with this analysis is that it ignores the many times the U.S. has asked Israel to stop fighting before it defeats its enemies. It ignores the many times the U.S. has called on Israel to sit still and take one for the team.
Remember the Scud missiles during the first Gulf war? Saddam Hussein fired missiles at Israel and the U.S. begged Israel not to do anything in retaliation, fearing it would open rifts in the coalition built by the first President Bush to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.
That's just one example of many.
Every time Israel is threatened or attacked it is ready to go to war, and every time it doesn't go to war you can bet your U.S. tax dollar that our government has promised Israel arms and technology that will be sufficient to defeat the arms and technology we just sold the Arabs.
So let's not spend a lot of time whining that Israel's taking advantage of the U.S. taxpayer. We're paying them to teach their kids to use gas masks while they leave our Arab friends standing.
Probably because we fear that if these repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt and Syria fall, al-Qaeda or its equivalent will control the world's oil supply.
There's always a reason.
Maybe even a good reason.
But just because we have to prop up these hideous regimes doesn't mean we have to stroke them and like it.
If they choose to keep themselves in power by diverting resentment and wailing to their populations that Israel is the enemy, the United States doesn't have to jump to its feet and shout, "Boy, howdy!"
We could treat Israel with the respect that's owed any free country.
And we would, if the Obama administration respected freedom.
Every day there's less evidence that they do.