Obama plays the Jewish family card

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White House Seder, April 2015

Public Domain

White House Seder, April 2015

White House Seder, April 2015

White House Seder, April 2015

American Jews have been having quite the internal screaming match over the Iran nuclear deal, so it was clever of President Obama to portray Israel and the U.S. as one big disagreeing family in his webcast with tribal leaders on Friday:

The bond between the United States and Israel is not political. It’s not based on alliances of convenience. It is something that grows out of family ties and bonds that stretch back generations, and shared values and shared commitments and shared beliefs in democracy. And like all families, sometimes there are going to be disagreements, and sometimes people get angrier about disagreements in families than they do with folks who aren’t family.

And did Obama fail to mention that he, personally, belongs to the mishpocha? He did not.

I’m somebody who wouldn’t be sitting here if it weren’t for the support of friends and supporters in the Jewish community all across this country — some of whom are watching right now, some of whom who oppose to this deal but are still my friends and we’ll still be playing golf, and they’ll be over at a Seder dinner next year.

Maybe there’s some Rip Ben-Winkle out there who doesn’t know that Obama’s the first American President to hold family seders in the White House, but if so, I’ve never run into one. By the way, have you ever been to a Passover seder where politics is discussed? If not, the internal discussion the American Jewish community has been having over the Iran deal is a reasonable facsimile.

It was, perhaps, a bit patronizing of the president to suggest that Jewish “anxieties” and “concerns” over Iran might be excessive by invoking the Holocaust. But he took the edge off by referencing his own: “as an African American I understand — history teaches us that man can be very cruel to man and you have to take threats seriously.” His point being a reminder that “history also teaches us” that “sometimes the best security is to enter into negotiations with your enemies.”

All told, this was, substantively and tonally, the best defense Obama has given to date of the nuclear deal. He’s won the debate on the merits and, it appears, politically as well. He’s also set himself up for the last year of his presidency as the adult in the room. Republican politicians who think there’s hay to be made attacking the the deal should think again. Israeli politicians should too.