Former President Barack Obama told a Jewish congregation in Manhattan Thursday that he is “basically a liberal Jew” as he defended his administration’s record on Israel and his decision to criticize Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria.
The event at Temple Emanuel in Manhattan marked the first time that Obama spoke publicly about Israel since leaving office.
Obama defended his decision to abstain at a December 2016 UN Security Council vote denouncing Israeli settlements. He explained that vetoing the resolution would have hurt “our credibility on human rights.” He also stated that “to be a true friend of Israel it is important to be honest about it, and the politics of this country sometimes do not allow for it.”
Obama said that the situation in the West Bank was “not sustainable” in the long term and could endanger Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state. He warned that settlements could make the creation of a Palestinian state practically impossible if they continued to grow at the current pace.
One attendee told Ha’aretz that the former president grew “visibly frustrated when he spoke about the settlements.”
Obama’s remarks about the settlements being a threat to Israel’s democratic character appear to draw on faulty Palestinian demographic data that purport to show Arabs will outnumber Jews in the region based on current birth rates, meaning that a Jewish state would essentially be a form of minority rule. However, as Caroline Glick and others have shown, Jews would outnumber Arabs two-to-one even if Israel annexed the entire West Bank region.
In addition, Obama claimed that his administration gave more military support to Israel than any of its predecessors. That had been a frequent talking point throughout his tenure, whenever critics noted his hostile acts towards Israel — such as his public snubs of the Israeli government, his one-sided nuclear deal with Iran, his broken promises on Jerusalem, and his efforts to deny Israel some military aid during its war against Hamas in 2014.
Earlier in the week, a photograph of Obama with the antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan emerged. The photo had been taken in 2005, when Obama was a sitting U.S. Senator and preparing an eventual run for president.
Later, during the campaign, Obama said: “I have consistently distanced myself from him [Farrakhan].”
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.