US President Barack Obama said it hurts him when he is personally accused of being an anti-Semite.
“Oh, of course” he responded when, in an interview with the Forward’s editor-in-chief Jane Eisner, he was asked if the accusations hurt him.
“And there’s not a smidgen of evidence for it, other than the fact that there have been times where I’ve disagreed with a particular Israeli government’s position on a particular issue,” Obama explained.
The president, speaking about the now tenuous US-Israel alliance under his administration, defended his actions with Israel and said he was only acting in friendship.
“And I’ve said before, and I will continue to say, that if you care deeply about Israel, then you have an obligation to be honest about what you think, the same way you would with any friend,” Obama said. “And we don’t do anybody, any friend, a service by rubber-stamping whatever decisions they make, even if we think that they’re dangerous in some fashion.”
“[T]he good news is that the people I’m close to, the people who know me,” the president continued, “including people who disagree with me on this issue, would never even think about making those statements. I get probably more offended when I hear members of my administration who themselves are Jewish being attacked.”
Obama has recently come under even harsher criticism by the American Jewish community for his efforts in sealing a nuclear deal with Iran, which critics have argued puts Israel in great danger.
When asked by Eisner how the nuclear accord would prevent Iran from using funds from sanctions relief to spread terror across the Middle East, the president reiterated his belief that the money would be used “for propping up their economy.”
“I think it’s important to recognize that the reason that Iran came to the table to negotiate a ‘no nuclear weapons’ pledge was because of unprecedented sanctions that we were able to structure,” Obama said.
“Congressional sanctions have been on the books for years. They have not been effective in changing Iranian behavior. What was effective was, when I came into office, our ability to mobilize vigorous multilateral support for sanctions and very vigorous enforcement of sanctions. And as a consequence, the Iranian economy really cratered. And obviously, that’s now been compounded by the severe drop in oil prices.”
He continued, “So, by definition, they were going to get some of their own money back as part of a deal. That was their incentive to engage with the world community in the first place. It’s estimated they’ll get about $50 billion. But as we’ve said repeatedly, the bulk of those dollars they are going to have to use for propping up their economy and getting it back on an even keel.”
US lawmakers will vote on the fate of the Iran deal on September 17. So far in the Senate, the president has garnered the support of 30 senators out of a possible 100. With the deal expected to be rejected in Congress, Obama needs 34 senators to uphold his expected veto.
Only two Senate Democrats have come out against the deal – Chuck Schumer (NY) and Bob Menendez (NJ).