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Monday, March 9, 2015
Comparing Leaders
Obama: Before matriculating at Harvard, he was a community organizer in Chicago. He worked as a civil rights attorney (in Chicago) and taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years. From 1997 to 2004 he served in the Illinois state Senate. In 2003, he became chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, when Democrats regained control of the Illinois state Senate. In January 2005, Obama became a U.S. Senator and was the only Senate member of the Congressional Black Caucus.   He also held positions on the Senate Committees for Foreign Relations, Environment and Public Works and Veterans’ Affairs, and accepted additional assignments with Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, and also became Chairman of the Senate’s subcommittee on European Affairs. He was elected President in 2008, and shortly after winning the election, he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between people.” The Norwegian Nobel Committee announced the award on October 9, 2009, citing Obama's promotion of nuclear nonproliferation and a "new climate" in international relations, especially in reaching out to the Muslim world.
Who is the more formidable and effective leader, Barack Obama or Benjamin Netanyahu?
We had an opportunity to compare them through the prism of speeches they both gave to the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) convention in Washington in 2012.
 
Considering the ongoing disagreement between the leaders of the United States and Israel over the issue of if and when to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, I thought it might be instructive to look at the backgrounds of the leaders of the two nations, President Obama and Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu.
 
Age:
Obama is 53, was born in Hawaii. His mother was born in Wichita, Kansas, and was of mostly English ancestry. His father, Barack Obama, Sr., was from Kenya.
 
Netanyahu is 65, and was born in Tel Aviv. His father was born in Warsaw, Poland, and was a professor. His family lived in the U.S., in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia), where he attended the Cheltenham High School. (He is said to speak American English with a Philadelphia accent.)
 
Education: 
Obama is a graduate of Columbia University (in New York) and Harvard Law School, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review. In 1979, he attended Occidental College in Los Angeles and transferred to Columbia University in New York, where he majored in political science with emphasis on international relations, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree (B.A.) in 1983. In 1988, he entered Harvard Law School, was an editor of the Harvard Law Review and subsequently became president of the Law Review.
 
Netanyahu attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a B.S. degree in Architecture in 1975, and an M.S. degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He subsequently attended Harvard University, where he studied political science.
 
Military Service:
Obama: None
 
Netanyahu enlisted in the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) and was involved in numerous combat missions, including the rescue of hijacked Sabena Flight 571 (in May 1972), where he was wounded by “friendly” fire. He trained as a combat soldier and participated in cross-border raids during the War of Attrition. In 1973, he fought in the Yom Kippur War, participated in Israeli Special Forces raids along the Suez Canal and led a commando team deep into Syrian territory. He left the IDF after six years of service with the rank of Captain.
 
Experience:
 
.
 
Netanyahu: After graduating college in 1977, he returned to Israel, and for a brief period worked as the chief marketing officer for a furniture company. Between 1978 and 1980 he formed the Jonathan Netanyahu anti-Terror Institute, a non-governmental organization that studied terrorism, which conducted a number of international conferences about the subject. During this period, he made his first connections with several Israeli politicians, including Minister Moshe Arens, who appointed him as his Deputy Chief of Mission at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C., where he served from 1982 to 1984, when he became the Israeli ambassador to the United States. From 1984 to 1988 he served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
 
In a 2005 poll by an Israeli news website, Netanyahu was voted the 18th greatest Israeli of all time. In 2010, the British magazine, New Statesman, reported that Netanyahu was 11th on the list of “The World’s 50 Most Influential Figures.
 
Prior to the Israeli elections in 1988, Netanyahu returned to Israel and was appointed a deputy to the then foreign minister Moshe Arens, and later David Levy.
 
In 1993, Netanyahu became the leader of the Likud party, and was elected Prime Minister in 1999, to become the first Prime Minister who was born in the State of Israel. He was defeated by Ehud Barak in 1999 and temporarily retired from politics. 
 
As Prime Minister, Netanyahu emphasized a policy of “three no(s)’: no withdrawal from the Golan Heights, no discussion of the case of Jerusalem, no negotiations under any preconditions.
 
In 1997 and again in 1999, he was investigated by the Israeli police who recommended that he be indicted on corruption charges for influence-peddling and for obtaining free services from a government contractor.
 
In 2002, Netanyahu was appointed Foreign Minister. He also served as Finance Minister from 2003 to 2005, and as Prime Minister from 2009 to the present.
 
Obama has consistently shown a lack of understanding about Israel’s situation in the Middle East, starting with the demand shortly after his election as President that Israel should return to the 1967 borders that existed before the Six-Day War, which would have effectively cut the country in two. Netanyahu swiftly rejected President Obama’s demand as militarily “indefensible.”
 
More recently, Netanyahu advocated that Israel should not allow the U.S. to make the call about if and/or when the Israelis should attack Iran’s nuclear facilities. 
 
Obama has previously displayed contempt for Netanyahu, openly insulting him on various occasions: When Netanyahu visited Obama at the White House in March of 2010 to discuss the Jewish settlements in east Jerusalem, Obama abruptly left him standing in a meeting room and announced that he (Obama) was going to the residential wing to “have dinner with Michelle and the girls.” On another occasion, Netanyahu was invited to the White House at a late hour and ushered in through a back door, without media coverage or a press conference. The Administration’s spokesperson challenged Netanyahu’s statement at AIPAC that “Jerusalem is not a settlement.”
 
Obama attempted to dissuade Netanyahu from accepting the invitation of the Speaker of the House to address a joint session of Congress on March 3, and more than 50 Democrats refused to attend.  
 
Notwithstanding the absence of those 50 Democrats, my sense is that both Netanyahu and Israel have strong support from a great many of our legislators in Washington, along with a substantial portion of the American population.
 
The essence of Netanyahu’s message (as reported by Howard Galganov) was:
1) “That the Iranians cannot be trusted”
2) “That Iran, with or without the bomb is a country that poses a global threat,” and
3) “Without making direct mention, the current President of the United States and his entire inner-circle are amateurs at best, and enemies from within at worst.”
 
Considering that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and central to America’s influence in that part of the world, it seems to me that Obama should show greater respect for the leader of our most important ally in the region.

© 2015 Harris R. Sherline, All Rights Reserved

 
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