Obama almost had them. All the way the end of his interview with the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, the probable Democratic nominee-in-waiting chose a metaphor to describe the effect of the perception of the longstanding conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. He said:
JG: Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?
BO: No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable.
First came the Republican Jewish Coalition:
"Once again, Senator Obama demonstrates his questionable grasp of America's foreign policy. Senator Obama manages to excuse the inexcusable actions of anti-American militant jihadists by putting the blame for their actions on America's foreign policy. America stands with Israel because it is one of our strongest allies and the only democracy in the Middle East. Senator Obama naively believes that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will solve the global scourge of radical Islamic extremism. Yet Senator Obama never says how he will reign in Hamas' daily onslaught on Israel or Iran's scurrilous condemnations of Israel. Is it any wonder Hamas has endorsed him for president?"
Then the organized Republican response began in the form of statements from minority leader Boehner and from Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA):
“It is truly disappointing that Senator Obama called Israel a ‘constant wound,’ ‘constant sore,’ and that it ‘infect[s] all of our foreign policy.’ These sorts of words and characterizations are the words of a politician with a deep misunderstanding of the Middle East and an innate distrust of Israel"
Notice how the metaphor, which, in context, referred to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is now a metaphor about Israel. So -- the GOP responses loses a few intellectual honesty points. But you can bet that Obama will be asked to elaborate, in much the way that a writer for the Weekly Standard, more honestly, lays out:
Call me naïve, but while solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unquestionably an admirable and important goal, I’m not sure it "infects" all, or even most, of the challenges we face in the world. The Burmese junta isn’t repressing its people because of Israel. The Sudanese government isn’t massacring the poor inhabitants of Darfur because of Israel. Iran isn’t murdering American troops in Iraq because of Israel. The Russians aren’t saber rattling in Georgia because of Israel. And the Chinese aren’t threatening Taiwan because of Israel.
No, Senator Obama is not a closet anti-Semite. Yes, he genuinely considers himself to be a friend of Israel. But he suffers from the left-wing misconception--heard on university campuses and European foreign ministries--of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the Holy Grail of international relations.
Late in the day, Rep. Rahm Emanuel defended Obama in a statement:
"On the eve of Israel's 60th anniversary, Congressman Boehner should remember that Israel enjoys bipartisan support and commitment to its security. Nothing could be worse for Israel at this time than for it to become a proxy for Congressman Boehner's political games. Senator Obama's record is clear when it comes to Israel's security and friendship with the United States."