Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Broward congresswoman, was at President Obama’s side during his trip to Israel and sounded ready to do a victory lap.
The president’s Israel trip brought enthusiastic crowds and positive coverage. And he’s the first sitting president to be awarded the nation’s top civilian honor, the Medal of Distinction.
So what happened to all the talk about tensions between Israel and Obama?
Wasserman Schultz: "Those criticisms were always nothing more than utter fabrications by Republican Jews in America who never supported Barack Obama and did everything they could to defeat him. And they were unsuccessful because the Jewish community in America overwhelmingly supports the ideals and values of the Democratic Party and strongly supports Barack Obama….”
“It would be hard for me to overemphasize the enthusiasm and warmth in which President Obama was received here – and also just in observing the interaction between him and Prime Minister Netanyahu, their back and forth, their interactions. Last night at the state dinner I sat two feet from them. They were engaged the whole evening speaking to each other – it was such a shot in the arm for our relationship and the friendship between our two countries.”
There definitely is pessimism. There’s a skepticism and a pessimism among the Israelis just for the prospects of being able to sit down with the Palestinians. This is an opportunity for the Palestinians and the Israelis to look inside themselves and sit down and start talking again.
Why skip giving a speech at the Knesset?
DWS: “I think it was a good idea. It was an opportunity for the president to really speak directly to the Israeli people, to reach into the Israeli society to speak directly to the citizens and affirm directly how strong our friendship is. The fact that he said you are not alone and that when it comes to the United States, Israel will always exist.
“The Israeli people needed to hear it from him. And in so doing, he urged them to give their leaders the strength and the courage to make peace and to come back to the. There were Palestinians in the audience as well and Arab Israelis.”
Q: You’ve called it a shot in arm, said Israelis needed to hear him reaffirm the relationship. Doesn’t that suggest Obama had a problem?
DWS: “That’s not what I meant. Look, Israel is in a tough neighborhood. One of the days President Obama was there, there was a rocket attack. A shot in the arm I meant is for Israelis to hear from the president that he stands with them, the American people stands with them. Our desire to continue to make sure that Israel is always a vibrant, free and Jewish Democratic state.”
“The typical way a president would do it is speaking to the Knesset. This is a more direct way to reach people. And that’s president Obama’s style. He’s really grassroots, direct.”
What do you remember most?
DWS: “The overwhelming response in support of the president’s comment during his speech about the importance of there being two states, that peaces results from two states, that the Palestinians deserve justice and fairness, too, just like the Israelis do. There was a standing ovation. A standing ovation. Given all the banter back and forth in the United States and the criticism that President Obama has unfairly endured, it was heartening to see that, what so many people criticize President Obama for, the Israeli people overwhelmingly support.
“It’s a very different experience over here with Israelis.”